Friday 19 January 2018

O'Shea wary of Georgia threat

Irish captain knows that Black Sea men will have tails up

Irish captain John O’Shea salutes the fans after beating Gibraltar in Faro, Portugal
Irish captain John O’Shea salutes the fans after beating Gibraltar in Faro, Portugal

Take a glance at the FIFA rankings before Ireland play Georgia in Dublin tonight and the fixture looks like something between a piece of cake and a cakewalk.

Georgia are ranked 147th in the world but, of more relevance to us, the stats have them down as one of the worst teams in Europe as, of the European nations, only four teams (Liechtenstein, Malta, San Marino and Andorra) are worse than the tribe from Tbilisi.

As we all know, those FIFA rankings can be laughable (Romania and Wales among the top ten teams in the world, really?).

But there will be no laughing if Georgia, as expected, come to Dublin and make a mockery of their status as the fifth-worst team in Europe.

Apart from a 4-0 tanking in a Dublin friendly two years ago we have struggled more often than strolled in games with the Georgians, four of the five competitive wins secured on a 2-1 scoreline, as John O'Shea knows as he has played in all five qualifiers against Georgia.

That's why it's not a case of hollow words from the 105 cap veteran when he sounds a note of caution. Once Georgia are out of the way, the October clash with Germany looms into view, a game every Irish player is desperate to play in, especially the five men who are one booking away from a suspension which would force them to miss that mouth-watering Dublin date with the world champions.


But O'Shea insists that everyone, especially the five on a disciplinary tightrope (Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson, Séamus Coleman, James McCarthy and James McClean) cannot afford to hold back against Georgia because they have Germany on their minds.

"You can't think like that," O'Shea told The Herald when asked if those card-holding players could be temped to hold back in a must-win game which Ireland are expected to win.

"Some of the tackles that you have to make at international level, sometimes you have to take that yellow card for the sake of the team, so the boys won't be backing out of tackles tonight, they will be 100% committed to getting the win, as defender I know that.

"We have had hard games against Georgia over the years and tonight will be a tough game, we will have to prepare well.

"We have a bit of confidence from Friday's win but we can improve on lots of things, hopefully the Aviva will be rocking tonight and we can go into the two games in October in good shape," added O'Shea, who recalls those hard-fought wins over Georgia, some of them secured by good fortune (having to play the away game in a neutral venue or a dodgy goal at home).

O'Shea is also aware that Georgia come to Dublin under a new manager and with confidence flowing after Friday's win over Scotland, and the Sunderland man says it's wishful thinking to suggest that the Georgians come to Dublin hungover from celebrations of the Scotland win.

"I don't know if they went out celebrating after the Scotland game, I would say they had their heads focused on coming here and doing the double against us," he admits.

"I think Georgia will be fully confident now, because of how they performed, not just against Scotland the other night but against Poland as well, they had a new manager in charge and he has given them an impetus.

"We are aware, we were aware from the first game of the group how difficult it would be for anyone in Georgia. I am sure they enjoyed their win the other night, as you do when you beat a team ranked above you."

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