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Last Chance Saloon

There's no room for any slip-ups in the two games which will determine Ireland's destiny next summer. words Tony Cascarino

Tony Cascarino, 07 Oct 2005



After his heroics against Charlton, you have to wonder which Robbie Keane will turn up against Cyprus and Switzerland. I think we’ll see the enthusiastic one: he’s bound to get chances against what’s clearly an inferior team. I think he’ll have a real spring in his step. It’s an opportunity for him to break his own record and I think he’ll do that.

Martin Jol seems to have it in his head that Robbie’s better as an impact substitute, and I know what he’s going through cause I had the same problem for years under Big Jack. He used to keep using me from the bench and I didn’t particularly like it; no-one wants a ‘supersub’ reputation. At international level he doesn’t have any competition, so in the Irish context, that won’t be a problem. My only concern would be that his fitness levels will suffer without ninety minutes’ action every week. That takes its toll, and I think we saw against France that he was off the boil, as hard as he worked. He’ll get more time and space against Cyprus, and hopefully with an early goal, he should have a comfortable game.

Clinton Morrison being absent, I’d go for Damien Duff to start up front. We need a foil for Robbie, and they’ve played together effectively in the past. David Connolly would be close, but I’m not sure he’s Brian Kerr’s favourite player. Damien was quiet on the left against France, so the wise move would be to switch Kevin Kilbane to the left and let Damien and Robbie wreak havoc on the Cyprus back four.

Kilbane was found wanting in central midfield against the French: he just isn’t technically good enough to be a central midfielder. When he’s on the wing, he can knock it past people and just run, using his big long legs. We can use his heading ability from diagonal balls, and he can whip in crosses first time. We don’t have a whole lot of options with Roy absent, so it’s got to be Graham Kavanagh and Mattie Holland in the middle. Graham isn’t outstanding, but he’s efficient. Mattie’s played there before, so I don’t see a problem.

Cyprus could be a banana skin the way Macedonia and Liechtenstein have been in the past, but if we can’t beat them, we don’t deserve to go to the World Cup. We’ve had our banana skins with the two Israeli games, and you don’t get a third. I’m sure we’ll beat Cyprus: there might be tricky moments against Switzerland, but again, if we can’t beat them we don’t deserve to qualify. I thought Switzerland were the worst team in Euro 2004. They’re mediocre at best: we’re in Dublin, there’s no excuse. We owe them one. I think, cautiously, that we’ll get the two results we need. I expect France to win in Switzerland, so top spot is probably out of the question.

Moving onto the Premiership, Chelsea were terrifyingly powerful against Liverpool. They’ve won the title; it’s not even an argument. I was delighted for Didier Drogba who I’ve been sticking up for in arguments; he absolutely murdered Sami Hyypia. This team is so efficient, if you go a goal behind against them you’re dead.

The only team I can see threatening them in the Champions’ League would be Barcelona, who have so much talent going forward. I think they’d give Chelsea a serious run for their money, and wouldn’t be afraid of them: they scared the life out of their back four last time out. It’d be a mouth-watering final, if they both get there.

Having watched Rio Ferdinand gift Fulham two goals at the weekend, I think there’s now an overwhelming case for Sven replacing him with Sol Campbell who’s fit again. John Terry is clearly the best defender in England, and Sol alongside him would bring pace and power in abundance. I think Rio ball-watches, he can get caught underneath the ball and there’s question marks about his workrate. He looks like he’s in the comfort zone, he’s just going through the motions. I’m not sure that Rio’s head has been right since the contract talks and the Chelsea affair. He’s always been a guy that, defensively, you feel you’re going to get a chance against, and it seems to be getting worse as time goes on. He’s turning into Laurent Blanc!

I know Wayne Rooney and David Beckham have kissed and made up, but I’m sure they’ll rekindle their love-hate relationship the next time England have a bad result. It could spill over again: there’s very clearly no love lost between them, you can tell from the body language. The 4-3-3 experiment against Northern Ireland was a disaster, and I’m sure you’ll see Beckham restored to his rightful position on the right. Sven, for me, is too indecisive and doesn’t seem to inspire the team: managers are paid to make the big decisions, and he seems to shy away from them. There’s no doubt they’re going to qualify, though: the opposition is too weak and they’ve far too much talent not to.b

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