Home » Preview: Can Ireland build on Belgium to slay Swiss?

Preview: Can Ireland build on Belgium to slay Swiss?

Preview: Can Ireland build on Belgium to slay Swiss?

Can John O’Shea’s Ireland side go one step further and get that much sought after victory as they take on Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium tonight?

Having come close to beating Belgium – a missed penalty and a host of missed chances denied O’Shea’s side a win – the squad will look to take the building momentum from that performance and replicate it tonight.

There were a lot of positives to take from the scoreless draw on Saturday against the world’s number four ranked side; missed chances aside, there were strong performances from all units, as the young three-man defence stayed solid, the midfield duo of Josh Cullen and Will Smallbone looks like a partnership of the future, while the attacking trio all showed up, worked hard and were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.

Then there was the individual excellence of the experienced Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady who patrolled both flanks flawlessly, not forgetting keeper Caoimhín Kelleher, who made a vital save when eventually called into action late in the game.

It was abundantly clear that this team have full faith in the manager, the system he asked them to play, and in their own ability as a unit.

Remarkable to think a team can maintain that positivity considering the run of results that they have experienced over the past 12 months, but the O’Shea factor seems to be key considering that this international window could have proved farcical and forgetful with no permanent manager in place.

O’Shea may only be in for two games, however, he is treating the role as his own, and has fully invested in showcasing the very best of this Ireland squad for the two friendly fixtures.

Will Smallbone and Josh Cullen linked well in midfield against Belgium

But another tough test awaits tonight against opponents who have sat consistently inside the top 20 in the FIFA rankings over the past decade; although they have fallen from their lofty position of fourth in the world back in 2017, to their current placing of 19th.

Recent form suggests that they are struggling somewhat, and while they qualified for this summer’s Euros, they only finished second in a group topped by Romania and lacking any of the top sides in Europe.

Five draws from ten games, against Romania, Belarus, Israel and Kosovo, twice, would suggest that Murat Yakin’s side are lacking that fear factor, which should offer Ireland hope.

Just the one win in the last eight for the Swiss – against Andorra – as they drew with Denmark in Copenhagen on Saturday, which also suggests that they are tough to beat.

Their manager, however, is not too concerned with recent form heading into Euro 2024 in a tough group with the hosts, Germany, Scotland, and Hungary.

“I am not worried about the Euros,” said Yakin, speaking after the Denmark match. “We didn’t win in Denmark, but they are a good side and I think the draw was a fair result.

“We stood up well to the physical challenge of the Danes who were [tough] in the tackle.

“We proved that three-at-the-back works well for us. Although we were comfortable, I thought we lacked presence, patience and efficiency in the opponent’s last 30 yards of the pitch at times.

“But we would love to get back and return from Ireland with a win.”

Despite the confidence in this Ireland side, there will again be a pragmatic approach to the fixture, and no doubt, O’Shea will be happy to concede an amount of possession in order to play explosive attacking football when the opportunities present themselves.

With little time to work on tactics between games, the same approach should apply, with the entire squad very familiar with the plan from the week training in Dublin ahead of the first game.

There will be some tweaks to the starting XI, but the manager will surely want a large element of continuity in his side to carry from the Belgium match into tonight’s game.

Tired legs, bumps and bruises but no injury concerns leaves O’Shea with the full deck to choose from, however, he will be mindful of certain players’ club situations as well as making sure not to overload anyone who might not be playing week in week out.

For that reason, it would be fairly simple for O’Shea to swap out Coleman and Brady for two from the trio of Festy Obosele, Matt Doherty and Ryan Manning without altering the shape or style of the team.

Likewise, Gavin Bazunu is expected to replace Kelleher in goal to offer O’Shea a good look at the two top-level youngsters vying for the number one jersey.

Will Adam Idah get the nod to start tonight?

The manager, however, will surely want more of the same from the midfield unit of Smallbone and Cullen and it would be a big call to separate the duo following Saturday’s performance.

Likewise, the back three worked well together and O’Shea would be hard pressed to pick any one of them to drop should he want to take a look at Jake O’Brien, who is performing so well at Lyon and would offer a real Shane Duffy-esque threat from set-pieces.

Up front, Michael Obafemi, Mikey Johnston and Adam Idah will be putting their hands up for selection, while other squad experienced squad members like Callum O’Dowda and Jamie McGrath will also have O’Shea pondering whether to disrupt the front three from Saturday night.

As for the game-plan, it will surely mirror O’Shea’s first game in charge, where it starts with focusing on a clean sheet, while attacking at the right moments.

“The focus from the start of the week was being compact, being solid, and having that aggression and compactness high up the pitch as well,” said O’Shea, speaking at the pre-match press conference.

“There’s a few great images that we were able to show the lads of how aggressive our last defender was, almost halfway inside their half at different stages in the game too.

“We knew we were going to have to be compact in our own box, just outside our own box at different stages in the game too, but when we were attacking, we had that intent to go with speed and hurt Belgium, which we did at times.”

It will be more of the same from O’Shea and the players for the ninety minutes as we enjoy a welcome break from the speculation around the permanent position for the national team.

But should O’Shea’s side secure that victory at Lansdowne Road tonight, the FAI’s promised April appointment may have to be moved to March.

Follow a live blog on Republic of Ireland v Switzerland this Tuesday from 7.30pm on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app and listen to commentary on 2fm’s Game On