Ireland’s World Cup Group Review


On Saturday evening it was that time again, when we switched the television on and waited in anticipation to find out who we would be facing in our World Cup 2014 Qualifying Groups. We all hoped for the ‘easy group’ and we all prayed we’d avoid being drawn into the group of death.

In my opinion, it’s not going to be an easy group, but it could have been worse. I think it goes without saying that Germany will be our toughest test, with the other four nations we should be able to beat, but we can ill-afford to label any team as ‘easy’ though after the near-embarrassment against San Marino a few years ago.

GERMANY

Germany's Mesut Ozil

Speaking of Germany, let’s start with them. The Germans are one of the real football powerhouses in Europe, with a great football culture and many fantastic stars like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Mesut Özil and Phillip Lahm to name but a few.

Germany have a fantastic history in the World Cup and have qualified for every competition since 1930, but they were banned from the tournament between 1938 and 1950 because of the war. They’ve won it 3 times, but all 3 came when the country was split into West and East Germany, but West Germany was a dominant force in football and they were crowned World Champions on all 3 occasions in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

They were the top seeded team in our group, and probably one of the last teams we wanted to draw. We’ve met them 3 times in competitive matches, drawing twice (Once in the 2002 World Cup Final Group Stages and one draw in the Euro 2008 Qualifying Group) and losing once in the Euro 2008 Qualifying Group.

Financially, Germany is a fantastic draw which will be music to the ears of the FAI who could take in as much as €10 million from television and advertising rights as they continue to pay off the debt on the new Lansdowne Road Stadium.

I can’t see us beating the Germans, but I think we’re capable of getting a draw in Dublin.

Prediction:

Home draw

Away Loss

SWEDEN

Sweden's danger man

Sweden isn’t an easy one to call, they may be ranked higher than us in the FIFA standings, but I feel we can pick up 3 points against them in at least one of the games.

Sweden have never won the World Cup, the closest they came was when they hosted it in 1958, but they were beaten comfortably by Brazil in the Final. They’ve also finished up in 3rd Place in 1950 and 1994.

On paper they actually have a quite decent strike force consisting of Johan Elmander, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Toivonen as well as creative talent out wide in Oscar Wendt and Sebastian Larrson, but to quote Andy Gray in FIFA 11 “Paper never won a football match” .

Overall we’ve played the Swedes 8 times, losing 4, winning 3 and 1 draw. The most recent meeting was a 2006 friendly, as Ireland ran out 3-0 winners with goals from Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and Liam Miller to give Steve Staunton the perfect start to what was to be a miserable tenure as boss.

Prediction:

Home win

Away draw

AUSTRIA

Just like Sweden, this is a tough one to call. They aren’t a great team nor do they have many ‘big name players’, but you just get the feeling that they could be the ones where we drop important points.

Austria have qualified for 6 World Cups, but usually don’t go far. Their best finishes came in the early years of the World Cup when they finished 4th Place in 1938 and 3rd Place in 1954 when neighbours Switzerland were hosts.

They don’t have a lot of what you’d call ‘big name players’, with Paul Scharner, Emanuel Pogatetz and Stefan Maierhofer probably the only recognisable names from their time in the Premiership.

1963 was the first time both teams met in a match that finished 0-0 in the European Qualifiers Group stage. We beat them 3-2 a month later in the same competition. In 1971 Austria enjoyed two big results in the same competition when they beat us 4-1 and and then by an even more staggering 6-0. The last time they played each other was in 1995 in the same qualifiers again, with Austria winning 3-1 in both games. So, they have a good record against us, but I can’t see us losing to them home or away this time around and at our best we should beat them in both games.

Prediction:

Home Win

Away Win

FAROE ISLANDS

It is hard to look beyond victories over the Faroe Islands, but as stated earlier about San Marino, there are no easy games and we can’t just play against them with the ‘we just have to turn up’ attitude.

My knowledge of the Faroe Islands is actually quite limited, all I know is they never entered the World Cup Group Qualifiers until 1990 and as you are well aware, have never qualified.

The Boys in Green have met Faroe Islands twice, beating them 2-0 in each game in their 2006 World Cup Qualifying Group. Brian Kerr, who currently manages the Faroe Islands, led the team to those victories.

The Faroe Islands have no big names and not much is expected of them and even if they set up to defend, I think we’ll do enough to break them down and win home and away.

Prediction:

Home Win

Away Win

KAZAKHSTAN

They may not sound European, but Kazakhstan are the final team in our group we look at. Again, like the Faroe Islands, we can’t take anything for granted and we have to turn up with the right attitude.

Kazakhstan have never qualified for the World Cup, but from 1930 to 1992 they entered as part of the USSR.
Kazakhstan don’t really have any well known players, with their best International playing within or near the country, and their quality may speak for itself when Shakter Karagandy, a team featuring a number of Kazakhstan First team Internationals, were knocked in the 2nd Round of the Europa League by St. Patrick’s Athletic a couple of weeks ago.

I suppose the best they can hope for is that the long journey to Kazakhstan will have the team tired and it might give them a chance of getting something out of the game.

Prediction:

Home Win

Away Win

Let's get this out of the way early; A picture of Borat.

OVERALL PREDICTION:

I fully believe we can finish 2nd place behind Germany, we aren’t good enough to finish ahead of them, but we are capable of finishing ahead of Sweden who will probably be favourites for 2nd place.

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