McCarthy re­calls un­fin­ished busi­ness with Switzer­land

Dan­ish and Swiss rep­re­sen­ta­tives far from put out by Repub­lic’s pres­ence as a third seed in their group

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Em­met Mal­one Soc­cer Cor­re­spon­dent

Repub­lic of Ire­land man­ager Mick McCarthy appeared to be jok­ing in the post-Eu­ro­pean Cham­pi­onship draw mixed zone about get­ting re­venge on the Swiss for that 2-1 home de­feat they in­flicted on him 16 years ago in his last game in charge of Ire­land first time around.

Then some­body fol­lowed up with: “Jok­ing aside, though . . .” and he cut back in to drily ob­serve that he wasn’t jok­ing. At least, he’s al­ready got his mo­ti­va­tion fig­ured out.

His side’s chief qual­i­fi­ca­tion ri­vals might find it a tiny bit less straight­for­ward for they have pre­cious lit­tle to avenge against Ire­land th­ese days.

There have three com­pet­i­tive en­coun­ters be­tween Switzer­land and Ire­land since that night at Lans­downe Road when McCarthy’s late bid to win a game Ire­land were draw­ing ended up be­ing seen as hav­ing con­trib­uted to a de­feat. Dif­fer­ent level On each oc­ca­sion the Swiss have, when push came to shove, got what they needed and more than a decade on they are op­er­at­ing at a slightly dif­fer­ent level to a side that might, for a short while back then, have been con­sid­ered a close ri­val.

Much more re­cently, the Danes won the only game of four be­tween the two sides that ul­ti­mately mat­tered. The other three have ended with­out a goal but it is fair to say that Åge Hareide’s side coasted, fairly ef­fort­lessly through a cou­ple of them.

The one in Aarhus a cou­ple of weeks ago, when the Ir­ish could not man­age even a shot on tar­get, would prob­a­bly have pro­moted the FAI to dis­pense with Martin O’Neill’s ser­vices if they had not al­ready taken the de­ci­sion to do so.

It was scarcely sur­pris­ing then that nei­ther Swiss coach Vladimir Pek­tovic nor Hareide’s num­ber two Jon Dahl To­mas­son seemed overly put out by the third seeds their sides had been handed.

No­body was fool­ish enough to be de­lib­er­ately dis­re­spect­ful, of course, but fear wasn’t ex­actly the over­rid­ing sense con­veyed as they mulled things over in the mixed zone.

“It is, as we say, a make­able group for us,” said Pek­tovic who prob­a­bly feels a good deal more con­fi­dent about th­ese things af­ter the way his side came from 2-0 down against the Bel­gians a cou­ple of weeks back to se­cure a re­mark­able 5-2 vic­tory and so en­sure qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the semi-fi­nals, not to be con­fused with the qual­i­fi­ca­tion play­offs, of the Na­tions League.

“Yes, we have im­proved but to­mor­row is a new day and our aim is to con­firm that we have im­proved then and the next day . . . it’s very im­por­tant.” Ex­pect A tight World Cup play­off against North­ern Ire­land pro­vided some small sense, he ac­knowl­edged, of what he and his play­ers might ex­pect next year but, he said: “It’s very hard to make the com­par­i­son be­tween the two teams. It will be a dif­fer­ent game and a new coach can lead to im­prove­ments but what wor­ries me more is that they [Ire­land] don’t con­cede a lot of goals.

“I re­mem­ber when we played against them [in a friendly in March 2016] it was very hard to score against them and we didn’t suc­ceed in the end. That will be the fo­cus now, to try and score against this strong de­fend­ing team.”

The Danes have had a few prob­lems on that scor­ing front too – al­though not when it mat­tered most with the del­uge last year in Dublin serv­ing as a warn­ing of just how badly things can go wrong when Ire­land have to chase a game against sides of their qual­ity.

“I think when new peo­ple come in, things will change a bit,” said To­mas­son be­fore adding, a lit­tle damn­ingly: “You can al­ways change the sys­tem, the way of think­ing, but still the play­ers will be the same. It’s al­ways the qual­ity of the player which is the con­clu­sion as to how you will play.

“I think we know all the play­ers quite well. They will prob­a­bly not get any new play­ers in, but at the end of the day we have to look at our­selves, how we are per­form­ing, how we are play­ing and the way we want to play. I think we are strong. I know Ire­land are a good side. But we en­joy com­ing here to Dublin.”

For Ge­or­gia, their coach Vladimir Weiss said, it is, af­ter some tough games and close run things, “time to fi­nally win against Ire­land.”

A suc­cess­ful Na­tions League cam­paign – they won their League D group and are sure of a play-off that of­fers a re­al­is­tic prospect of qual­i­fi­ca­tion – will have boosted con­fi­dence and McCarthy’s side will have to be bet­ter against them than last time when a 1-1 draw might eas­ily have ended in de­feat.

Gi­bral­tar also tasted vic­tory in the Na­tions League and, though they hope to play their games on home soil, the ease of the Repub­lic of Ire­land’s two vic­to­ries the last time the sides met sug­gests that pretty most of McCarthy’s men would have to have “a Mace­do­nia,” for their cam­paign to hit the rocks there.

Avoid­ing them else­where, though, looks set to be quite a chal­lenge.

12 Dublin is one of 12 host cities for the fi­nals that will be staged across the con­ti­nent for the first time

PHO­TO­GRAPH: TOMMY DICK­SON/INPHO

Repub­lic of Ire­land man­ager Mick McCarthy and FAI chief ex­ec­u­tive John De­laney at the Euro 2020 draw at the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, Dublin yes­ter­day.

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