10.02.1999 at 00:00 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
2 - 0
Referee: Gylfi Thor Orrason (Iceland)
Friendly / Prog-match
Jason Mc Ateer
Juan Carlos Franco,
Wednesday, February 10, 1999
Republic of Ireland 2 (Irwin pen., Connolly)
Paraguay feel Dublin chill
by Bill George
Republic of Ireland 2
MISSION accomplished for Ireland who slipped smoothly back into winning mode at Lansdowne Road last night where they overcame a wide spectrum of varied problems with impressive ease.
Paraguay were despatched with the minimum of fuss, a playing surface that was less than ideal was no brake to their progress and they maintained their concentration with admirable professionalism despite the intrusion of a second-half streaker to send 27,600 fans home happy.
Paraguay's body language suggested initially they had little stomach for a battle and the fact all eleven players wore black woollen gloves gave the impression they were less than enamoured of Dublin's chill.
But they were individually highly skilled and busy in a typically South American style to suggest they were capable of causing Ireland problems were they handled with less than total commitment.
In the circumstances Ireland impressed hugely for they were strong and dominant in their attitude and even if a two goal winning margin was something of an understatement, given the measure of control Ireland exerted, the manner of the win was totally acceptable.
Even more so was the ebullient form of the talented Damien Duff who produced the most exciting individual performance of the match to illustrate his rich potential and reflect his growing confidence at this level.
Duff, who is still only 19 years of age, was making his sixth appearance in the senior team and the level of improvement he has shown in his last two appearances testified to his increasing influence on Ireland's performances.
He made the mistake in his early games of attempting too much in his anxiety to make an impact, but he was level-headed and sensible in his play in the competitive cauldron of Belgrade last November in the European Championship and he expanded upon that with great elan against Paraguay.
Duff put a premium on retaining possession of the ball against Yugoslavia and was slow to gamble; an approach that was entirely justified given the importance of the match and the quality of the opposition.
Relieved of the pressures of a competitive tie last night he was encouraged to allow his attacking inclinations full rein and he produced moments of sheer magic.
The quality of his crosses was superb and a bright and imaginative performance was denied the full endorsement of a goal only by ill-luck on more than one occasion.
His sharp reactions look set to put this minor flaw to right as early as the 12th minute when Harte's quickly taken free was chipped by Kinsella over the top of the defence for Duff to shoot past goalkeeper Tavarelli but sweeper Caniza took the ball off the line.
It was entirely appropriate that Duff should have been heavily involved in one of the most devastating moves of the game when he took Harte's pass in his stride and cut back the most beautiful cross for Quinn to head against the crossbar in the 27th minute. Overall he was the player who showed most penetration for Ireland despite the fact that Paraguay were not slow to use illegal means to stop him when danger threatened and his steady advancement is calculated to give cause for optimism for the future.
Paraguay included only a couple of players who were regularly in action for them in the World Cup finals in France last Summer, so Ireland's dominance was not a surprise and it was never threatened.
In the circumstances the only measure of criticism one could level against the Irish was that they did not score more goals; a charge that was justified given the amount of possession they enjoyed and the number of chances that fell their way.
The two they succeeded in taking reflected the huge impact on a polished Irish performance of right-back Denis Irwin, whose defensive solidarity was matched on this occasion by his clever incursions into Ireland's attacking play.
He brought his total of international goals to four from 51 appearances when he struck home the first goal from the penalty spot in the 37th minute with total conviction.
The manner of his execution of the penalty reflected the immense feeling of confidence and calmness that the impressive full-back brings to bear to his football and his contribution to Ireland's second goal, in the 74th minute, was just as excellent.
He stole behind the defence to attract a pass from Roy Keane and his cross was driven so accurately and at such an ideal pace that even though substitute David Connolly lost sight of the ball as he was forced to battle to retain position in a crowded penalty area, it looped into the net off his body.
Connolly saw 23 minutes of action as substitute and made quite an impression in that short spell and the other individual successes on a night of total Irish control were Gary Breen, midfielders Roy Keane and Mark Kinsella, and Robbie Keane.
The livewire centre-forward saw few clear-cut chances to score as Paraguay crowded their goalmouth at every hint of danger, but he was extremely hard-working and mobile and he was always a handful for defenders who were committed and defiant.
Breen had one of his best internationals and his dominance in the air was married to a good touch when the ball was at his feet. His distribution was immaculate throughout the game.
Roy Keane and Mark Kinsella controlled midfield with commendable authority and Kinsella contrived to show the wide range of passing at his disposal until he tired in the second-half, an inevitable consequence of his club game as recently as Monday.
So the match gave manager Mick McCarthy plenty of reasons to be optimistic ahead of Ireland's next assignment ü a tricky European Championship qualifying tie against Macedonia in Skopje on March 27 ü even if he learned little that was new.
Most encouraging was the nice balance achieved on both flanks with Ian Harte filling in for the injured Steve Staunton effectively and striking a good understanding immediately with the precocious Duff. But then, who would not enjoy entrusting such a rich talent with the ball at every opportunity ?
Ireland: Shay Given (Newcastle United), Denis Irwin (Manchester United), Ian Harte (Leeds Utd), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon), Gary Breen (Coventry), Roy Keane (Manchester United) capt, Jason McAteer (Blackburn), Mark Kinsella (Charlton), Nial Quinn (Sunderland), Robbie Keane (Wolves), Damien Duff (Blackburn)
Subs: Alan Kelly (Sheffield United) for Given 67, Phil Babb (Liverpool) for Harte 71, Alan McLoughlin (Portsmouth) for McAteer 81, Lee Carsley (Derby County) for Kinsella 67, Tony Cascarino (AS Nancy) for Quinn 69, David Connolly (Wolves) for Robbie Keane 67
Manager: Mick McCarthy
Paraguay: Ricardo Tavareli, Jorge Valdez, Ignacio Rolon, Juan Ortiz, Denis Caniza, Miguel Acosta, Edgar Aguilera, Humberto Paredes, Mauro Caballero, Juan Carlos Franco, Raul Roman
Subs: Eriberto Britez for Caballero 71; Christian Esquival for Franco 80; Juan Peralta for Roman 58
IRELAND'S team manager Mick McCarthy yesterday raised the heat on Paraguay in a bitterly cold Dublin for tonight's friendly international at Lansdowne Road (7.30 pm kick-off) by nominating a near full-strength team.Missing from what would be regarded as Ireland's first-choice team is Liverpool's Steve Staunton and his place at left-back will be filled by the promising Ian Harte as Ireland look to discover winning ways ahead of the re-start of the Championship season.
Ireland's next game of major importance will be the European Championship tie against Macedonia in Skopje on March 27 and this will be very much on everybody's minds against Paraguay.
McCarthy confirmed as much when he said after yesterday's training session in Clonshaugh: "everbody has shown up for what is. after all, just a challenge game and that shows the attitude of the players in the squad.
"I can understand the attitude of some club managers who say that the players have had a busy season already and is it wise to add in a match like this but this is a terrific bunch of lads and they are all keen to play in the championship."
McCarthy has made the minimum number of changes in the team from Ireland's last senior international - the European Championship tie that was lost 0-1 to Yugoslavia in Belgrade on November 18.
Robbie Keane missed that match because of injury and he returns to partner veteran Niall Quinn (Sunderland). Alan McLoughlin (Portsmouth) drops down to the substitutes' bench to make way for Keane and apart from that the only other change was the enforced withdrawal of Staunton and the promotion of Harte.
McCarthy's team selection confirms two issues - one is that Ireland will be seeking to win this match against Paraguay with as much of a flourish as they can manage and, also, that his mind is settled on his first-choice XI.He resisted the temptation to experiment with the personnel available to him and he said; "This is all about continuity; I want to play the strongest team and I want to win, that is the short answer.
"This match against Paraguay is no different to any other match we play in my mind, we will be approaching it with just as positive an attitude as we did the Yugoslavia match in November.
"I was delighted with the team performance in that match ... not the result, mind, and unfortunately that is all that matters. But what I saw from our players in Belgrade was very encouraging and I was delighted with everything else except the result."
Ireland's team selection was predictable given the trend of McCarthy's team pattern since the start of the current European Championship on September 5 when Ireland began in the best possible way with a 2-0 win over Croatia, who finished third in the World Cup.The only possible surprises were his decisions not to re-introduce Liverpool centre-back Phil Babb to the defence and Sheffield United's Alan Kelly to the goalkeeping position.
Both of them were forced to miss international matches before Christmas and now they are fit again it was possible that McCarthy might have chosen this match to sharpen their fitness at this level.
It was obvious that Newcastle keeper Shay Given and Coventry's Gary Breen were his preferred choices for these positions even when Kelly and Babb were available, however, and McCarthy's preference for them again for today's match further underlined his desire to give his Championship team as much practice together as possible.
Paraguay will be difficult opponents for Ireland, however, even if their team selection is not expected to include many of those players who represented the country in the World Cup finals in France.
Missing is their extrovert goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, who was such an inspiration in France where he was rated one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament.
Paraguay came through the first stage of that competition after two scoreless draws against Bulgaria and Spain and a 3-1 win over Nigeria. They only departed for home after being beaten by the eventual champions, France, when Laurent Blanc scored an extra-time "golden goal" in a fascinating match in Lens.Paraguay set their stall out to set up a scoreless draw in an effort to force a penalty shoot-out and they were within minutes of achieving that on an emotional afternoon when Blanc created history by scoring the first "golden goal" in World Cup finals.
Since then Paraguay have changed their manager and Ireland's Mick McCarthy humourosly referred to the fact that 70 managers at the World Cup had lost their jobs subsequently when he said: "I'm just glad we didn't qualify, it means I'm still in a job for another couple of years."Ireland know they need a good win over Paraguay if they are to travel to face the dangerous Macedonia in an inhospitable venue in Skopje next month in good spirits, however, and they will look to a fruitful evening's work from the exciting partnership of Quinn and Keane at centre-forward.
Both have been in prolific form this season and the powerful Quinn can help hasten the development of a potential superstar of world football if he finds a true understanding with his youthful colleague.
Happily the signs are encouraging - "Niall is in the best form of his career" said McCarthy. "He is as good as ever and after having an injury-free season he looks really sharp and playing with somebody like Robbie Keane, whose enthusiasm on the field is infectious, is enough to get anyone excited.
"This may be a friendly match but as far as we are concerned, it is business as usual."
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Newcastle United); Irwin (Manchester United), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Breen (Coventry City), Harte (Leeds United); McAteer (Blackburn Rovers), Roy Keane (Manchester Utd) Capt., Kinsella (Charlton Athletic), Duff (Blackburn Rovers); Quinn (Sunderland), Robbie Keane (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Irwin issues timely warning for Euro 2000
by Noel Spillane
MANCHESTER UNITED'S Denis Irwin issued a warning to Ireland's Euro 2000 opponents in Dublin last night.
The 33-year-old defender who has just signed a lucrative one-year contract at Old Trafford is closing in on Frank Stapleton's 20-goal all-time scoring record.
The Cool-hand Luke of this Irish team scored his fourth international goal in celebration of his 51st appearance for his country and all four goals have come from dead ball situations and all four have been scored at Lansdowne Road
"I jumped at the chance to take the penalty kick last night because I felt I needed the practice," said Irwin as the Republic of Ireland coasted to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Paraquay who were making their first visit to chilly Dublin.
"I felt confident about taking the responsibility for the spot kick and, while Robbie Keane or Roy might have had eyes on it, I just went up and grabbed the ball for myself and placed it on the spot," added Irwin, who scored with a typically struck low drive deep into the corner of the net.
Irwin opened his international goal account from a free kick in a friendly against the USA in Dublin in 1991; he scored again from a free kick against Belgium in the first leg, play-off for the World Cup finals in France and, then, he varied it a little with a goal from a penalty against Croatia to kick-start our Euro 2000 qualifying bid in Dublin.
And last night before 27,600 frozen Irish fans it was back to the spot-kicks theory as Irwin drilled home Ireland's opening goal after 38 minutes in a 2-0 friendly win.
"Paraguay, even in a friendly situation like last night, were very defensive minded and even when they were a goal down they did not come out that much to attack us," he said. "They are on a 15-match European tour, as they prepare for the Copa America which they host back home later this year, but they would need to be a bit more adventurous. They were a big disappointment from the team that ran France so close at the World Cup finals in the summer," added Irwin.
Roy Keane, the Irish skipper who was winning his 42nd cap was well pleased with his team's night's work and why not? "It was a fine crowd for such a bitterly cold night and I hope we put on a half decent performance for them. The important thing was that we won the match and there were a lot of positive things to come out the evening," he told waiting reporters under the West Stand.
"I think Mark Kinsella and myself are beginning to get a good understanding going in the middle of the park now. It must have been hard enough for Mark, given that he had to play a full 90 minutes for Charlton on Monday night but I felt we gelled well together."
"He played more of an anchor role last night and I had the licence to go forward a bit more. I would have liked to get on the scoresheet, okay, but the few chances I had were hit on the volley and well outside the box," he added.
"We were lucky enough to score in the first half and that settled the boys down, but we probably should have scored a few more in the second half. Still, a win is a win and, all in all, it was not a bad performance by us," added Keane. "Damien Duff had an outstanding match for us and put in some great balls. For me, he was undoubtedly man of the match and I was delighted for him when he won the award.""
On his room-mate Denis (Irwin), Roy said: "Denis is playing terrific stuff at the moment. I think it's all that money he got last week when he signed that new contract with us. I think it's cheered him up a bit. Denis is Denis and I really don't have to say too much about him. I think his performances on the pitch for club and country say it all and that's all you need," he added.
"To be honest, I don't like picking out individuals like that but he played excellent and he scored his penalty really well. I think all the lads did a job, the whole team played well and it's all looking good for our qualifier in Macedonia next month," he added.
Mick McCarthy praised his players' ''first-class application.''
''What impressed me most was our lads approach to the task,'' said the Ireland boss.
''It has been a difficult preparation and we didn't have a full team available to start training together until yesterday.
''The pitch wasn't the best after Saturday's rugby match and Paraguay took a lot of breaking down.
''But the application was exactly right and I'm satisfied with 2-0. The same again against Macedonia next month and I'll have no complaints.
'"I had virtually my best team out and didn't really want to dilute it until we had got a second goal,'' explained McCarthy. ''But Connolly is a player I have always been able to rely on. He'll always get goals. He had a little bit of luck and it will be a boost for him but the only trouble is that he's got to get in the team in front of Robbie Keane.''