Oh Man, This Won’t Be Easy!Stats
Ireland v Oman
Martin O’Neill kicks off preparations for the start of the Euro qualifying campaign with a friendly against Oman at the Aviva.
You have to go back to nearly 10 months ago for the Republic’s last win – a 3-0 victory in Martin O’Neill’s first game against Latvia in November 2013. Since then it’s been a disappointing run of three draws and three defeats as the reality of a lack of quality looms large.
Performances during that time have oddly been rather encouraging with some good football played in spurts yet ultimately, they have succumbed to a greater strength of opponent. It’s a real transitional period for the former Celtic manager’s squad and the signs don’t look particularly encouraging ahead of a European Championship Qualifying campaign that sees the top two sides make the finals in France in 2016.
Oman are ranked 67th by FIFA, just one place below Ireland and shouldn’t be underestimated. They are managed by former Lyon and Rangers boss, Paul Le Guen and should be organised at the very least. Having won three of their last four games, they could present the Boys In Green with a stiff task, indeed.
38 year-old Aston Villa veteran Shay Given has come out of retirement and accepted a call-up to the squad – a nod to the lack of significant new talent at Martin O’Neill’s disposal.
West Ham captain Mark Noble has stated he is considering joining the set-up after being left out of Roy Hodgson’s England squad and would provide a timely boost of Premier League quality.
James McCarthy, rested for the summer US tour is back in the squad as is his Everton team-mate, Seamus Coleman. Robbie Keane proved his fitness with thirty minutes and a sublime goal for LA Galaxy early Monday morning.
Other than that, Ireland go into this game, and the qualifier in Georgia on Sunday with a clean bill of health.
Oman’s most renowned player, former Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi but the majority of the squad is based in Oman or Saudi Arabia.
Head To Head
The two teams have only met once before in another friendly two years ago when the Republic stormed to a 4-1 victory with goals from Shane Long, Robbie Brady, Kevin Doyle and Alex Pearce.
The Republic and Oman may be only one place apart in FIFA’s official rankings but in reality, there is still a slight gap in quality between the two sides.
Oman won’t be pushovers but this friendly should present Martin O’Neill’s side with the perfect launch board for an assault on the Euros. A squad hungry for their place in the first eleven, Ireland have more to play for and therefore the canny bet has to be to take them to beat Oman on the -1 handicap.