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The Republic of Ireland took four points from their two games against world champions Germany in the Euro 2016 group stages and will need to replicate the same levels of focus, fortitude and luck if they are to progress to next year’s tournament.
However, Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has to make do with a make-shift squad ravaged by Injuries and suspensions to a number of players ahead of the first leg play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Zenica stadium.
Boys In Green diminished but hopeful
Ireland will be without striker Shane Long for tonight’s match as the Southampton player receives treatment at his club for a foot injury picked up in the final group game against Poland last month.
The Boys In Green are hopeful that Long, who scored the winner against Germany just three days before the fateful Poland clash, will be recovered in time for the return leg against Bosnia in Dublin on Monday.
The Republic’s striking options are further diminished by the absence of Jonathan Walters through suspension. The Stoke striker has impressed for club and country but will won’t be available until Monday and manager O’Neill is likely to turn to Ipswich forward Daryl Murphy to lead the attack in the absence of Long and Walters with veteran Robbie Keane expected to play his part from the bench.
Midfielder David Meyler became the latest name to be added to a lengthy Irish injury list after picking up a knee injury in training for the first leg of the play-off against Bosnia.
The Hull City player is expected to be ruled out for up to two months with a scan revealing he has torn a medial ligament in his right knee.
Randolph keeps place
As in attack and midfield, Ireland are further weakened at the back and have called up Charlton goalkeeper Stephen Henderson as cover for three injured keepers – Newcastle’s Rob Elliot, Sheffield Wednesday’s Keiren Westwood and legend Shay Given.
West Ham’s Darren Randolph is expected to keep his place after impressing in the final two group games against Germany and Poland with David Forde and Henderson his back-up.
O’Neill has the same problems in defence with Reading’s Paul McShane ruled out with injury and Sunderland’s John O’Shea suspended. The former Manchester United man is also a doubt for Monday’s match given a hamstring injury and O’Neill has called on Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark and Stoke’s Marc Wilson to bolster the Irish defence.
Playing for the top teams
Online football tipsters and bettors will note the names of the teams the Irish play for and will compare them to those of their Bosnian opponents – eight of whom play for top flight clubs in Italy, Germany and England.
Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic lead the Bosnian attack and their Serie A and Champions League form will give Ireland plenty of cause for concern at the back while Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic will look to nullify their attack.
By: Joe Cahal