Following on from last Friday week,s game against Wales, Martin O’ Neill and his squad played a friendly in the Aviva Stadium against Iceland.
The timing of this game was strange to me as why would play a friendly after the main event. I will admit though that the FAI played a blinder in the ticketing arrangements for both games as they sold tickets for the games in a package. To attend the Welsh game you had to purchase a ticket for the Iceland game and this was a master stroke, as 37,000 people turned up to see Iceland, the nation that introduced the thunder clap to our screens during the 2016 European Championships in France, come to Dublin.
Both sides put out under strength teams on the night as it was a friendly after all. It was a chance for O’Neill to have a look at some fringe players and see exactly what the next generation coming through could actually do on the field.
Before a ball was kicked on the night Martin O’ Neill had to decide who his captain would be as Seamus Coleman would be side lined for some time after his double leg break. The manager handed the armband to Robbie Brady and his decision sat very well with everyone. Robbie was voted Irish player of the year for 2016 and rightly so after his performances in the European Championships in France, he is also one of the new generation and if Seamus is to be out for a long time, then who could be better to lead out the team.
Unfortunately on the night the visitors ruined Robbie’s party and left Dublin with a one nil win. The goal came in the first half from a free kick by Bjorgvin Magnusson. It was a defeat that seen the Irish beaten at home for the first time in nearly three years at the Aviva Stadium. Although they fell behind to a delightful free kick, you have to take your hat off to the boys in green as they piled on the pressure to grab an equaliser. Time and time again they attacked on both flanks and got some good crosses in but the Icelandic defence stood firm. It was disappointing that the Irish lads did not get to the goal line and pull the ball back for a colleague who maybe could of got on the end of something. To be perfectly honest by applying the tactic of crossing the ball into the penalty area every time it made the defence look very good. It was a good win for Iceland but it was a very subdued Irish side they came up against, you could still feel the effect of the Coleman leg break still hanging in the air from the previous game.
On a positive note for the Irish, manager O’ Neill must have been delighted to hand International debuts to John Egan, Conor Hourihane, Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle. It was a big plus for the manager and he could only have been pleased at what he saw. Horgan got the biggest cheer of the evening when he came on in the second half. Daryl and Andy Boyle have joined Preston from champions Dundalk and now expect to be involved a lot more. Next up are three games of big significance for the Irish, they will meet Mexico, Uruguay and in the next group qualifier Austria. The Austrian game is now a must win for the Irish and hopefully with the exception of Coleman they will have a fully fit squad to select from. We are only half way through the qualification and so far the Irish have had the feel good factor and have been superb. There is still a lot of hard work left to do and we are certainly in for interesting times ahead.