Armenia, the Dark Horses

by Ryan Kelly

With just a few days left before the Republic of Ireland’s final games of the European Championships Qualification campaign, one hopes that Trapattoni and his men begin to grasp the importance of taking control of their destiny. At this stage, Ireland have relinquished control of their destiny – one dire performance after another means that automatic qualification ultimately rests on whether Russia drop points in their final games. Nevertheless, the Boys in Green must still win their final two games if they are to retain even a sliver of hope, at least.

Andorra are, rightly, considered to be the minnows of the group. They have lost all eight of their games so far, conceding 17 goals along the way. However, they are not exactly the “whipping boys” they once were and have forged a system of defence which has seen them generally come away from games with a respectable scoreline. They even have the ability to score the odd goal, but it most certainly is odd. In this group, they have scored just one and that was, interestingly, against Ireland. In their last four games, they have conceded six goals and it is interesting to note that 50% of those came from Armenia.

Armenia have emerged from obscurity as the dark horses of group B and they present a serious threat to Ireland’s chances of qualification. With a remarkable 17 goals scored, they have netted the most goals of group B to date, while they have only conceded seven – just one more than Trapattoni’s men. In their last four games, they have scored eight goals, conceding three away to Russia. Ireland, in contrast, have scored just four, conceding only one and each of those goals came against Macedonia. The dichotomy is clear to see, and it is startling.

The difference between Ireland and Armenia, is that Armenia can score goals when they need to, a fact which was emphatically showcased as they hammered Slovakia both home and away. Ireland in the same fixtures, slumped to two uninspiring stalemates. In their games against Russia, Armenia managed to draw at home and even took the lead away, before being defeated by three goals to one. Ireland on the other hand were simply diabolical in their displays against Russia – trounced 3-2 in Dublin and managing a miracle 0-0 draw in Moscow.

Trapattoni’s men must be spirited and they must perform to the best of their ability, otherwise Trapattoni’s system will be embarrassingly exposed once more. Indeed, Armenia’s recent form makes Ireland’s 1-0 away win in Yerevan last September seem like an anomaly and it might well prove to be.

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