Friday, September 06, 2019

Back to Football at the Aviva #COYBIG #euro2020

Not since March 26th, 2013, had I attended an Ireland soccer match in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. By that time I had been a little fed up of very poor performances, crap football, and high ticket prices. On March 26th, 2013 Ireland and Austria shared a 2-2 draw with David Alaba scoring an injury time equaliser for the Austrians. It was also a very cold evening.

Switch forward six years to 5th September 2019 to see what I have missed, and to also learn a lesson in perseverance, commitment, and making the best of what you've got.

Not so cold in the Aviva last evening for a Euro 2020 Qualifier with Switzerland. The Swiss came with a great reputation due to recent form and high FIFA rankings - they were the favourites. In an even first half there were not that many chances and I thought Ireland were very comfortable defending against a more skillful side. As John Giles might have said, the Swiss were "no great shakes". In the second half, Switzerland upped the pace of the game and dominated for long periods. Still - I thought Ireland were comfortable with Coleman, Whelan, Duffy, and Randolph keeping us in the game - I also thought Hendrick was excellent throughout.

In a game where quality was rarely on show, a brilliant passage of play led to a goal from Fabian Schar scoring what looked like the winner on 74 minutes for the Swiss - the goal had been coming. The two guys in front of me got up and left - they were also 10 minutes late coming back after half-time, and were also late at the start of the match - tickets for our section were €45! Inexplicably, the Swiss dropped their pace and Ireland had a chance. A brilliant shot from Glen Whelan cracked off the crossbar, the Swiss cleared, but the ever willing James McClean reclaimed the ball, crossed into the box, and David McGoldrick nodded home. I had an excellent view of this being in line with the goal behind McClean. Relief, and a lucky escape with a draw.

So, my return to the Aviva was worth it to see Ireland's boys give everything against a better team - they never gave up and cannot be faulted for lack of commitment and effort. Ireland faces two away games out of the three that are left in our group - Georgia are up next (our best prospect of a win) followed by the Swiss. The last game in the group is home against Denmark - hopefully we'll still be in with a shout by then. Realistically, I feel the best we can hope for is to finish third and take our chances in the play-offs - Switzerland and Denmark should take the first two places in the group.

YouTube highlights from Sky Sports...

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