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EURO 2016: SPOTLIGHT ON IRELAND

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Ireland were at the Euros four years ago, but it was a cold shower for the Irish as they were in a group with Spain, Italy and Croatia. They lost all of their games in Ukraine & Poland with a goal difference of 1-9. This year's group looks no easier, as they'll have to face Italy again, Belgium and Sweden.

The Irish managed to get third place in their qualifying group behind Germany and Poland. They reached the finals after beating Bosnia and Hertzegovina in a play-off round. Ireland's strength in the qualifiers was their defence, as they conceded the least goals in their group.

Most of the squad play in British leagues, but Irish legend Robbie Keane is also in the squad. Keane scored five times in the qualifiers, which was enough to lift the experienced striker to top spot in the all-time list for goals in the Euro qualifiers.

PREVIEW AND ASSESSMENT

Ireland only scored once in their last European Championship finals, so the country needs their strikers to step up this time out. Unluckily for the Irish they were drawn in the so-called "Group of death", so if they want to fight for any points their defending has to be spot on. This was the case in the qualifiers where they only conceded seven times, the least in their group.

Ireland's midfield is full of hard-working men who give it their all every time they take to the pitch. This is a massive help in terms of defending, but it often leaves their forwards a bit isolated. Sure, full-backs Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady do venture forward regularly, but this in turn leaves Ireland exposed at the back. Irish legend Robbie Keane is well past his prime, and the LA Galaxy forward has recently been suffering from a foot injury.

Ireland could use one more star player to make their counter-attacks even more dangerous. In their tough group they are on the same level as Sweden in terms of material, but it'll be a tougher test to compete against Italy and Belgium going forward.

Assessment: 4th in Group E

Betting Tip: Will finish last in their group 4/5 Betsafe

It promises to be yet another epic battle for the title of European Champions! Check out the favourites and best odds from this link!

IRELAND'S MOST LIKELY STARTING LINEUP

Goalkeeper: Randolph

Defenders: Coleman, O'Shea, Keogh, Brady

Midfielders: Hendrick, McCarthy, Whelan, Walters, Hoolahan

Forward: Long

Key Player: James McCarthy, Everton

The Everton midfielder has a big role to play in Ireland's defensive battles against better oppositions. He didn't have the strongest season in the Premier League, put in the qualifiers he was on fire. In the 1-0 win against Germany McCarthy had all of Germany's midfield maestros in his pocket, and similar performances are required if Ireland are to progress beyond the group stages.

Who will win the Golden Boot at Euro 2016? Check out the best odds from this link!

IRELAND'S SQUAD FOR EURO 2016

Goalkeepers:

Shay Given (Stoke City)

Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday)

Darren Randolph (West Ham United)

Defenders:

John O'Shea (Sunderland)

Séamus Coleman (Everton)

Stephen Ward (Burnley)

Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)

Richard Keogh (Derby County)

Cyrus Christie (Derby County)

Shane Duffy (Blackburn Rovers)

Robbie Brady (Norwich City)

Midfielders:

Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday)

Glenn Whelan (Stoke City)

James McCarthy (Everton)

James McClean (West Bromwich Albion)

Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)

Jeff Hendrick (Derby County)

David Meyler (Hull City)

Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)

Stephen Quinn (Reading)

 

Forwards:

Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

Shane Long (Southampton)

Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town)

Manager: Martin O'Neill

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