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World Cup Preview: Irish hope for Les Blues win

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Les Bleus, buoyed by the return of Zinedane Zidane, are away to the surprising Swiss in a top-of-the-table clash whose winners will most likely secure automatic qualification to Germany 2006.
Both sides have 16 points after eight matches, two more than Israel, who wind up their schedule against the Faroe Islands in Tel Aviv, and three ahead of Ireland.
The most hopeful scenario for Irish boss Brian Kerr, who leads a slightly weakened squad to Cyprus this week, is for a French result in Berne while his own side, minus the injured Roy Keane and suspended duo Clinton Morrison and Andy Reid, does the job in Nicosia.
That will put the Republic in a position to clinch a playoff berth as the group’s runners-up with even (depending on goal difference) a draw against the pesky Swiss in the final qualifier at Lansdowne Road next Wednesday.
However, should Switzerland scratch out a point or beat France at the weekend, it will be must-win for the Irish, and by the largest margins possible, in both Nicosia and Dublin.
Second from the bottom Cyprus, with six defeats in eight qualifiers, appear easy pickings for Ireland, who’ve called Wigan Athletic’s in-form striker David Connolly from the wilderness. There’s also a first time call up to the senior squad for Reading’s Under-21 international Kevin Doyle to boost Kerr’s options upfront.
Morrison and Andy Reid have been included in Kerr’s 24-man squad since both are eligible to play against Switzerland.
The full squad is: goalkeepers — Shay Given (Newcastle United), Paddy Kenny (Sheffield United), Nicky Colgan (Barnsley); defenders: Kenny Cunningham (Birmingham City), Gary Breen (Sunderland), Andy O’Brien (Portsmouth), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), John O’Shea (Manchester United), Stephen Carr (Newcastle United), Ian Harte (Levante) and Steve Finnan (Liverpool).
Midfielders — Stephen Reid (Blackburn Rovers), Liam Miller (Manchester United), Matt Holland (Charlton Athletic), Graham Kavanagh (Wigan Athletic), Kevin Kilbane (Everton), Gary Doherty (Norwich City), Andy Reid (Tottenham Hotspur), Damien Duff (Chelsea).
Forwards — Stephen Elliott (Sunderland), Kevin Doyle (Reading), David Connolly (Wigan Athletic), Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace).

The Swiss return to Dublin next Wednesday almost three years to that day on Oct. 16, 2002 that they stunned the Republic 2-1 in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, a defeat that ultimately cost Kerr predecessor Mick McCarthy his job.
Defender Ludovic Magnin, who netted a 77th minute own goal, is the only one of the three Swiss scorers from that game named in coach Koebi Kuhn’s squad — a delightful mix of youth and experience.
Kuhn dropped the veteran Hakan Yakin last week after a poor display in the 1-1 tie with Israel last month, while Fabio Celestini has long been out of the frame.
Familiar names in the squad that has outscored the field and tops Group 4 on goal difference include young Arsenal center half Philippe Senderos and Rennes forward Alexander Frei.
Ireland and Switzerland drew 1-1 in their first World Cup qualifier in Basel 13 months ago.

David Trezeguet, recalled to the French squad after a two-match ban, pulled out on Monday with a thigh injury picked up playing for Juventus at the weekend.
It’s a blow for France who are already without Thierry Henry, out with a groin injury since that superb strike consigned Ireland to a 1-0 defeat in Dublin on Sept. 7.

Northern Ireland, still on cloud nine after shocking England 1-0 in Belfast last month, face a replay of their 2-2 Cardiff battle with Wales at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Lawrie Sanchez’s reinvigorated side (2-3-3, 9) have won two on the trot now and should start favorites to keep John Toshack’s Welsh Dragons (0-2-6, 2) winless in Group 6.
The North play away to Austria next Wednesday.

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