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Republic of Ireland desperately needs to improve

Monday 4th September 2017
The Republic of Ireland needs a marked improvement if they are to keep their hopes of qualification to Russia 2018 alive.

To say that the Irish were dire on Saturday evening against Georgia would be an understatement. For 90 minutes, Ireland - a team composed of no less than eight Premier League players - was dominated by a side ranked below 100th in the world (112th to be exact). Oddly, that is where Wales, Ireland's qualification rivals, found themselves ranked only a few years ago.

However, Wales had Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, and Joe Allen, so it was no embarrassment when the Dragons decided to turn it on and upset the odds. For Ireland, though, they utterly camped in their own half for the majority of the game was shameful.

Though Georgia played well, where slick and vibrant in the midfield and forward areas, it is no excuse for Martin O'Neil's men. They were simply outplayed and can count themselves lucky not to have been travelling home empty-handed.

The Republic of Ireland completed just 150 passes on Saturday; in damning contrast, Georgia has completed 565 more passes than Ireland over the course of the two matches. To be penned back in your own half, to be controlled and dictated in the fashion that Ireland were made a mockery of the quality this Irish team actually possesses.

It was defeatist, backward tactics. Yet when Shane Duffy headed in within the opening minutes, it appeared as though Ireland were on course to avoid a tricky away day. At 1-0, O'Neil should have instructed his men to find a second and kill the game. He didn't - from what we saw - and the Irish let Georgia onto them. The Georgians equalizer was a well-worked and intricate move, one that few defenses could have stopped, but the goal was simply inevitable.

The Irish welcome Serbia on Tuesday evening - a game they cannot afford to lose, and one in which a win would significantly boost their qualification hopes. To do so - either avoid defeat or run out victors - Ireland must be much, much better.

They must first pass the ball. It sounds condescending insulting, but this Irish team forgot how to do so against Georgia - it was a trend that has followed them throughout this campaign. O'Neil must employ progressive and forward thinking tactics. Fail to do so, invite the Serbians onto the Irish defense, and there will be only one result in Dublin.

Losing should be unthinkable for Ireland. For Wales will surely win against whipping boys Moldova - if these two results happen, Ireland would slip to third and Chris Coleman's men would trump them and move into second. With a trip to Wales and the raucous atmosphere that the Welsh famously generate the last game of the group, few would bet on O'Neil's men winning and qualifying.

This is the most important match of Ireland's campaign thus far. It is a pivotal moment in Irish footballing history and O'Neill has a chance to demonstrate the quality his team has - only progressive thinking will induce such skill, though.

The Republic of Ireland have to be at their best come Tuesday, if they aren't, they face losing their grip on second place.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97


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