Category: Archive

Ireland to face Spain in Round of 16

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What: Round of 16

Who: Republic vs. Spain

When: Sunday, 7:25 a.m. EST

Where: Suwon

TV: Live ESPN and Ch. 41 in tri-state

By Jay Mwamba

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Goalkeeper Shay Given, outstanding in the Republic’s first-round effort, last week revealed his dream matchup for the World Cup final on June 30: England vs. Ireland.

“It would be nice and I said that before we left,” Given told a sports TV station. “That’s what we all dream of and we’ve got a slim chance.”

The Republic against England for the world championship may indeed be a long shot. What isn’t, though, is an Irish surge into the semifinals.

The route to the quarterfinals was settled at midmorning today, (when the Group B fixtures were completed) with Spain providing Ireland’s Round of 16 opposition this weekend.

Based on form, Spain would not be a source of major concern, particularly against an Irish side that has, going back to the qualifiers, been through fire and brimstone and overcame enormous distractions to get this far in the World Cup.

Spain, with due respect to Raul, Fernando Morientes and veteran skipper Fernando Hierro haven’t been totally convincing despite posting a pair of 3-1 victories over both Slovenia and Paraguay earlier in the opening round before disposing of South Africa, 3-2. Indications are that they’d have struggled in Ireland’s Group E.

Ireland will certainly be favored, meaning a possible return to the quarterfinals for boss Mick McCarthy 12 years after he captained the Republic to the last eight at Italia ’90.

And like an eerie case of dTja vu, Ireland vs. Italy is again a remote possibility in the quarters, in what would be the two teams’ third meeting in the last four finals.

The Azzurri halted Jack Charlton’s Shamrock Express, 1-0, at Italia ’90, but Ireland got its revenge four years later when Ray Houghton’s superb goal downed the Italians in group play at USA ’94.

Italy, rocked 2-1 by Croatia in Group G last weekend, face another one of their USA ’94 rivals, Mexico, in a crunch match in Oita tomorrow, needing full points to advance to the second round.

With Mexico all but through, it’s a question of whom, between Croatia, an Italian squad miffed by the loss to the Croats, and outsiders Ecuador, accompanies the central Americans to the Round of 16.

Croatia, on the three-point mark with Italy, appear to be the best bets to make the cut. They have a relatively easier assignment, on paper at least, against Ecuador, who, despite two losses, can still qualify for the second round if they beat the Croats by a five-goal margin in Yokohama tomorrow and Mexico defeats Italy.

One likely scenario is that Mexico hold on to first place in the group and face the Group D runners-up (possibly the United States or South Korea) to produce a foe for Ireland in the quarterfinals.

But it also could be either Italy or Croatia, as the Group G runners-up, tackling the Group D winners (Portugal or the U.S.) in the Round of 16 with the victors of that series booking a date with Ireland in the quarters.

Whichever way the chips fall, Ireland would be in a strong position to maintain their rich vein of form and go one better than the Italia ’90 squad by reaching the semifinals.

At that point, Ireland would only be one win away from partially fulfilling Givens’s dream of contesting the final — with or without England.

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