Republic of Ireland heads into the second leg of their Euro 2016 play-off with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday night having secured a 1-1 in the first leg of the tie.
It looked like Martin O’Neill’s side would be claiming a win in Zenica, after Norwich midfielder Robbie Brady opened the scoring on 82 minutes, but three minutes later on-loan Roma striker Edin Dzeko scored a vital equaliser.
Despite Dzeko’s goal, a score draw was a decent result for the Irish, as they now have an away goal to defend, although boss O’Neill has stated that his side will not just sit back on that slight advantage in the second leg.
An evenly balanced contest
Everybody connected with Ireland will know that they face very highly-rated opponents in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday night. On paper I would argue that there is not much between the teams in terms of quality and this contest is very evenly balanced.
The Baltic nation has a number of top players who are plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues, including Dzeko himself.
In fact most of the current squad play their football in Germany, Italy or England. That suggests that the quality of the Bosnia and Herzegovina squad is high, unlike some of the teams that were in the play-offs.
The most notable players from their squad are Chelsea ‘keeper Asmir Begovic and Roma stars Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic. The latter two will no doubt cause the Ireland defence problems, along with experienced Bundesliga campaigner Vedad Ibisevic, who is currently plying his trade at Hertha Berlin.
The visitors have players with more technical ability in the likes of Pjanic and Dzeko. However it could be argued that Ireland has a better all-around team and have a fighting spirit that is a force to be reckoned with at times.
It would be harsh to say that Ireland depends completely on their team spirit though, because there is quality in their team. Everton stars James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman are both highly-rated in Premier League circles.
Captain Robbie Keane is the countries record goal scorer and even at 35-years-of-age he is a big threat to opposition defences. Keane is enjoying his swansong in the MLS with LA Galaxy.
Throughout the history of the Republic team they have punched above their weight in international football. Their recent 1-0 victory over reigning world champions Germany in qualifying is certainly not a one-off. The Irish have been giant killing for years.
Fantastic Irish support
The crowd at the Aviva Stadium have a big part to play in any potential Ireland success this evening. The Republic of Ireland fans have a reputation for being some of the best in the world. They travel in their numbers at major tournaments and provide the best sort of partisan support at home games.
Like any home crowd really when the Aviva is behind the team it can give the team a massive advantage over the opposition.
Who are the favourites for victory?
The home side are favourites for victory in this clash and therefore qualification for Euro 2016 at odds of 6/4. The visitors are odds of 23/10 and the draw is odds of 21/10.
The away goal has given the Republic the slight edge in this tie, but Bosnia and Herzegovina does have the quality to cause the home defence major problems. They have the capabilities to win in Dublin and secure the result they need to qualify for next year’s competition.
I may be biased as somebody with Irish blood in my veins, but I really do believe that the Republic of Ireland team are good enough to progress to their second European Championship in a row.
However, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be no pushovers and Martin O’Neill’s side will have to be at their best to see off their tough opponents.
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