Ireland – Serbia (Friendly Match)
Two teams that missed the ticket to Brazil will meet on Wednesday to start preparation for the next international competition they’ll be involved in. A door closes and a window stretches open. Euro 2016 qualifying in coming near, it’s time to make the most of the transition period before things get serious.
Giovanni Trapattoni and the Irish Football Association parted ways supposedly in amicable terms when it became clear the chances of qualifying to the World Cup fell trough. Losses to both Sweden and Austria left Republic of Ireland 6 points behind Group C’s runners-up, Sweden. Martin O’Neill, former Aston Villa and Sunderland gaffer, was installed short after. Bringing Roy Keane as Assistant Manager was probably his signature move, and a bold one considering the former Man United and Celtic’s central midfielder’s charming and intense personality. With this new coaching staff Ireland remain unbeaten, having defeated Latvia 3-0 and secured an important goalless draw with Poland.
O’Neill selected a 29 men roster for this tie and Captain Robbie Keane’s absence is the big news here. He was relieved so he could concentrate on the upcoming MLS season. Ireland’s historic captain is also LA Galaxy’s star and leader.
Nottingham Forest’s Andy Reid was the first casualty. He missed out on his teams’ home defeat to Burnley and will now undergo surgery to solve an hernia problem. Irland will also have to do without Queens Park Rangers striker Kevin Doyle and defender Richard Dunne, both with knocks.
Probable line-up: Forde – Ward, O’Shea, Wilson, Coleman – McGeady, McCarthy, McArthur, McClean – Long, Walters.
Following the 8th place in 2000 the Serbian squad failed to qualify for the next three European Championships – 2004, 2008 and 2012. They have reached group stage in 2010 in South Africa but won’t be travelling to Brazil this year. Europe’s Group C included Serbia, Croacia, Belgium, Scotland, Whales and Macedonia. Mihajlovic resigned after elimination, the 3rd spot behind Belgians and Croatians kept them from a chance in the play-offs. Ljubinko Drulovic – a former Serbian winger with a successful career in Portugal, playing in the countries major rivals, Porto and Benfica – replaced him as interim coach. This friendly match against Ireland will be his first in charge. He recently made the headlines leading U19 Serbian team European Championship 2013 in Lithuania, where they won the title after beating France in the final 1-0. Clearly the Serbian Football Association would like him to have a similar effect on the first national squad. Drulovic certainly has a handful talented players, the challenge is to build a wining team with them.
Probable line-up: Stojkovic – Kolarov, Ivanovic, Bisevac, Basta – Tosic, Matic, Ljajic, Petrovic – Tadic, Dordevic.
This friendly tie serves as preparation for a 2016 UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign, both national teams are in for a hard run. Ireland draw Group D along with Germany, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar. The Serbians will have to fight Portugal, Denmark, Armenia and Albania in Group I.
Republic of Ireland and Serbia met twice before, so far all friendly games, the first time in 2008 (1-) and the later in the summer of 2012 (0-0). Three times is the charm, who will take the lead this turn around?