Doing the Impossible: The boys in green, the Republic of Ireland that is, have to do what has not been done before. They need to beat the French team on foreign soil by at least two goals in order to advance to next year’s World Cup Finals. In fifteen previous meetings dating back to 1928 the Irish have only come away victorious on French soil once. The French were defeated in this friendly by a score of 2-0. Most won’t remember this game, and this is because it was played in 1937. In the eleven World Cup Qualifiers between the Republic of Ireland and France the Irish have a total of zero away wins. If history is any indication of the future then the outcome of the match on Wednesday looks bleak for the Republic of Ireland. The first leg of the playoff was a cautious match with both teams looking careful not to make the first mistake. In any case it was a bit of a dull affair. With limited chances for both sides Nicolas Anelka claimed a goal in the second half after his shot took a large deflection off the Irish defender.
What can the Irish do in order to book their trip to South Africa? First thing first, Ireland needs to score at least one goal and concede none in order to force extra time. If Ireland does not go into Paris with plans of taking the game to France then they may as well concede any hope of making it to the World Cup Finals. The Irish need to exploit the points of weakness for the French, this mainly being set pieces. If Ireland does not take the game to France and force the French to foul and concede corners then it just seems unlikely that Ireland come away with anything but a negative result.
Which of these teams deserves to go to the World Cup Finals more? The French, as of late, have been in abysmal form. They are a side that is usually tossed into the hat of teams with a realistic possibility of winning the whole thing, but since the last European Championship they have looked stale and boring. The French national sides of late have looked arrogant and entitled to victories. The starting lineup France used in the first leg of the playoff resembled a video game all-star team, with many of the players signed to the largest clubs in Europe. With the caliber of players the French have there is no reason they should be on their last lifeline in order to qualify for the World Cup Finals. At this point in the international schedule the French should be playing a friendly, and looking into South African hotel accommodations. When it boils down to the bare essentials, the French just haven’t been good enough to deserve a trip to the finals in June. After missing out on the finals in 2006, The Republic of Ireland, as a country, desperately wants to be heading to South Africa in June. Ireland simply seems to have a stronger hunger and desire to be in the World Cup Finals this summer. This is why Ireland will do what hasn’t been done in 72 years, they will beat France on the road, and book their place in South Africa 2010.