herald

Monday 17 December 2018

Fearless Armenia believe they can break Irish

ARMENIA, the surprise packets in Ireland's Euro 2012 group, insist there's no reason why they can't come to Dublin and win their final qualifying game next month.

The Armenian side have recovered from a poor start to the campaign – they lost their opening game at home to Ireland and then drew away to Macedonia – to come storming back into contention. They've beaten Slovakia and Andorra at home and away, the most recent win coming in Tuesday's 4-0 hammering in Zilina, a venue where Ireland could only manage a 1-1 draw.

Should Armenia win their next game at home to Macedonia – and John Toshack's Macedonian side have lost four of their last five outings (the only relief coming in Tuesday's narrow home win over Andorra) – then Armenia will come to Dublin for the final group game with a real chance of making the play-offs at Ireland's expense, if they can get a win at Lansdowne Road.

“Why can't we go to Ireland and get a win?” asks Armenia's keeper Roman Berezovski, who was in goal for them when Keith Fahey's 78th-minute strike earned Ireland a win on the opening day of the group 12 months ago.

“We have a young team with an attacking attitude, we have young lads in the team who don't know any fear.

“They don't go out and play for a draw, they don't know how to.

“So we will play Macedonia at home next month and then see if we can go to Dublin and win,” added the keeper.

Ireland quite rightly boast about the team's defensive record of seven successive clean sheets, a new record for the national team, but Armenia have shown admirable stinginess at the back as well, as keeper Berezovski has conceded in just one of the last five qualifiers – the 3-1 defeat by Russia. Their manager, Vardan Minasyan (pictured), is very proud of his team as their run at the end of the campaign has made Armenia genuine contenders for the play-offs.

He is aware that Armenia have a good away record in this campaign, while Ireland have, in recent home qualifiers, failed to win against teams like Russia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy and Montenegro.

“We are in with a chance,” the manager says. “I know that our results could have an effect on the other teams, our result against Ireland could be of benefit to someone like Russia, depending on what happens in the other games.

“But it all depends on us winning at home to Macedonia next month, so we won't think too far ahead.”

Goalscorer Yura Movsisyan said: “I'm not surprised by the win in Slovakia; we believed in each other from the very beginning.”

Defenders Hrayr Mkoyan and Robert Arzumanyan miss the match will miss the Macedonia match.

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