Tonight, Ireland invite Sweden to the Aviva Stadium in a crunch World Cup qualifier. As both sides are currently level on points, this match has got a lot riding on it. For both sets of players, a loss would deal a terrible blow to their qualification hopes, whilst a win would surely propel them within touching distance of Brazil 2014.
So, nervy fans look set to be in for a roller-coaster 90 minutes this evening
And, in anticipation of the big game, it’s time to take a look at three Republic of Ireland players who will be keen to impress against the Swedes.
Having secured a big-money move to Everton on the final day of the transfer window, McCarthy is sure to be fueled even further to put in a solid performance in the middle of the park for his country.
In effect, his displays in an Ireland shirt are bound to come under far more scrutiny now that he’s playing for a side with European competition aspirations than they did when he was with Wigan. And if he can play to his potential in Dublin, the Irish will be in a fantastic position to dictate the pace and tempo of the game. After all, the Boys in Green did that quite well in Sweden for the revers tie, and with home support behind him, McCarthy should relish in the role.
And let’s not forget, a top notch performance would further tighten his grip on his starting role under Giovanni Trapattoni, so there are more than enough reasons for the FA Cup winner to put in a good shift in central midfield.
Unlike his fellow Ireland team-mate, Long was unable to guarantee a much sought-after 11th hour transfer.
Undoubtedly, the 26-year-old will have been disheartened by the manner in which his proposed move to Hull City fell through, however, there is still a crunch international match for the former Cork City man to channel his efforts into.
Despite not managing to rattle the net against Wales in Cardiff a few weeks ago, he did grab a memorable goal against the ‘auld enemy towards the end of May, so the signs are certainly there that he can produce the goods on the big occasion. But will he produce tonight? In short, he will be desperate to. There’s a lot of competition for the slot alongside Robbie Keane with Conor Sammon, Simon Cox and potentially even Jonathan Walters all vying to break into the first team. Undoubtedly, a positive display tonight from Long would help to solidify his place, and even better would be yet another big goal on the big occasion.
Having helped Queens Park Rangers to another clean sheet at the weekend as his side overcame Leeds United, Dunne proved his fitness and capability to Irish supremo Trapattoni. Granted, Dunne has proven a calming influence for Rangers ever since his return, with his side going three games without conceding, however, tonight sees him come up against one of the best strikers in the modern game.
And as good a servant as Dunne has been for the Green Army, this will be a massive test for him. Even an off-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic can turn a game in the blink of an eye, so Dunne will have to prove himself up to the task of keeping him quiet all night. Will he be able for it? Effectively, he’ll have to be. If Dunne intends to coast his way back into the international set-up after such a lengthy lay-off, a focused, accomplished approach will be necessary, particularly with Ciaran Clark waiting in the wings to swoop in and nab his starting place.
Perhaps the most influential factor to Dunne impressing Il Trap would be the fact that he didn’t get to feature at all in Korea/Japan, and a win tonight would give him a chance to right that wrong should they eventually qualify.