Ireland World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 5:58 PM
How they line up
MICK McCARTHY experimented tactically when he first took over as manager, but has now settled on a 4-4-2 formation.
Shay Given's heroic displays against Iran in the playoffs will not be forgotten, and he is certain to be first-choice goalkeeper. Dean Kiely has recently overtaken Alan Kelly in the keepers' pecking order. And if Kelly does not recover from injury, there will be a call-up for Hibernian's Nick Colgan.
Right-back Stephen Carr, sidelined by injury, is a huge loss to the team. Steve Finnan is now favorite to take the position after getting his chance in the team when Gary Kelly was sent off against Holland last September.
Ian Harte is assured of the left-back berth. But while he is deadly from free kicks, the jury is still out on his defensive capabilities and general positional play.
McCarthy has lots of defensive cover and could move Steve Staunton to left-back if needed, but at 33 "Stan" no longer has the speed to go careering down the touchline. It seems more likely that Staunton, who seems certain to win his 100th cap at the finals, and Gary Breen will form the central defensive partnership. McCarthy is a big fan of Breen, and the Coventry man has played more times under the manager than any other player.
Prior to his groin injury Kenny Cunningham was a regular, but he has struggled since returning. And while Richard Dunne performed heroically when thrown in at the deep end in the away qualifiers against Holland and Portugal, he may have to settle for a place on the bench. Andy O'Brien is another option, though he lacks international experience.
Jason McAteer seems certain to play on the right side of midfield, with Gary Kelly or Finnan both capable of filling in if needed. Captain Roy Keane is the man who usually motivates the team, but his acrimonious departure from Ireland's camp is a huge blow. McCarthy will probably go with Mark Kinsella in the other central midfield spot, but it will be a close call between him and Matt Holland. Both, like Keane, are captains of their club sides and natural leaders.
Damien Duff has played his way into the team thanks to some great displays in recent friendlies. Now the choice is whether to play him on the left side of midfield or as a striker. If on the left, it would probably mean Kevin Kilbane dropping to the bench after having started all 12 qualifying matches.
Up front, a lot will depend on the fitness of Niall Quinn. The Big Man has been troubled with back and neck injuries, but he is still an ideal target man who could trouble Cameroon and Saudi Arabia. Despite a disappointing season with Leeds, Robbie Keane is Quinn's most likely partner, there to play off the Sunderland man's knockdowns.
Clinton Morrison's sharpness has probably moved him above David Connolly in the reserves' pecking order and is sure to figure at some stage. Gary Doherty, who has just returned from injury, is a very useful utility man and can play in both attack and defense.
From World Soccer magazine.