Before a ball was even reflexed in the Republic of Ireland’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, the stress on boss Stephen Kenny had intensified. Having failed to save his first win in eight efforts after succeeding Mick McCarthy in April 2020, it was expected the opening qualifiers against Serbia and Luxembourg would launch Kenny’s reign in serious.
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But after the overthrow in Belgrade, the Republic was shocked by the minnows in Dublin in a defeat – branded “embarrassing” by Captain Seamus Coleman that graded among the nastiest in the team’s history. Their hopes of success a first Football World Cup since 2002 in pieces after two games, Kenny has since supervised a marked upgrading with one overthrow in 10 games, an order that has wired his case for a contract extension.
But what can Republic fans take away from the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, and what does the future grip for Kenny? The Republic’s sureness was brittle as they geared up for March’s opening qualifier in Belgrade after counting just one goal in Kenny’s first eight competitions at the helm.
And while Serbia striker Aleksandra Mitrovic’s second-half double spelled a 3-2 defeat, there were clear signs of upgrading from the recitals the Boys in Green shaped during the three international openings in the latter months of 2020, as showed by Alan Browne’s headed goal that inwards at the end of a well-worked move. For more to know about Qatar World Cup Tickets Click here
But any goodwill heaped in Belgrade quickly disappeared three days later, replaced with the humiliation of losing at home to Luxembourg, a team ranked 56 places lower than them. Indisputably the crushing nadir of the Kenny era, that result crushed any lingering confidence in the present side, who listed just three shots on target beside a Luxembourg team that continued to ship 13 goals in their four conferences with Portugal and Serbia.
And as Luxembourg grilled their first qualifying win away from home since 2008, a shell-shocked Republic camp arrived a period of intense soul-searching as they totaled with the increasing probability of misplaced out on a spot in next year’s finals in Qatar. With their qualification confidences hanging by a thread, the Republic’s task when the campaign restarted in September was to guarantee the mood did not degrade after Luxembourg.
And having sealed Kenny’s first victory with a 4-1 friendly victory over Andorra, they did just that. Denied a famed success in Portugal by the late Ronaldo show in Faro, the Republic was at the hazard of slumping to another harmful reverse at home to Azerbaijan only for Shane Duffy’s late leveler to spare Kenny’s rouges. A point at home to Serbia followed before a morale-boosting October that produced seven goals – five of them counted by Robinson in victories over Azerbaijan and Qatar.
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