After losing against France, how are Ireland's chances against Greece?

·8-min read

It featured teams that did not enter it through the traditional qualifying stage and happened in a year that was not the designated one. Naturally, the latter was because of the onset of the COVID pandemic, as this occurrence pushed the competition's qualification fixtures back, forcing the tournament to get rescheduled. Those who watched it and closely follow football in general likely know that the Republic of Ireland did not make it to the final batch of 24 teams, despite the caveat that the qualifying draw got held at the Convention Centre Dublin in late-2018. The Boys in Green could not make it through their group stage, and they failed to succeed in taking the alternative route via the playoffs, where they got eliminated by Slovakia. Of course, everyone on Emerald Isle hopes that things will be different come the summer of 2024 and that the Republic of Ireland's national team will find its way to Germany for EURO 2024, taking up one of the 24 available spots. However, the qualifying draw was not favorable for the Irish, as they found themselves going up against World Cup runner-up France, the Dutch juggernaut team, Greece, and outsider Gibraltar for one of the two spots that carry a reward for entry into the final tournament. There is no doubt that Irish football has seen better days, as the country's national team ranked in April 2023 at the 49th position on FIFA's ranking, a departure from where the mid-twenty to the mid-thirty territory where the team ranked in the mid to late-2010s.

Still, many are believers that the Irish have a fighting chance in qualifying group B, despite what the odds at sportsbook sites say and the initial setback, they remain optimistic ahead of the June 16th clash at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens against Greece. And that gets analysed in-depth below.

What happened in the opening game against France?

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The short of it is that Ireland lost at home at Aviva Stadium by one goal scored by Bayern Munich right-back Benjamin Jacques Marcel Pavard via a superb second-half strike in the 50th minute of the game. Though, that only tells a small section of the entire story. While France did get off to a lively start, notching a decent chance in the opening ten minutes of the match when Kolo Muani burst into the area, trying to find AC Milan striker Olivier Giroud with his heel, that was pretty much the only quality opportunity the Les Bleus' had in the first half, as they showed a visible lack of creativity.

At the start of the second half, Pavard managed to break the deadlock, making it 1-0 for France, with an under-the-bar shot that came from some 18 meters out, after an intercepted pass meant for Jason Knight from Josh Cullen.

Following France going one up, taking the lead, Ireland began piling up the pressure for an equaliser.

Nonetheless, their fierce offensive could have inadvertently given France another goal through Moussa Diaby and Adrien Rabiot. Ireland missed a chance to tie things up via a Nathan Collins header.

Republic of Ireland's Nathan Collins heads at goal
Republic of Ireland's Nathan Collins heads at goal

In many spectators' eyes, Didier Deschamps' squad got outclassed by the Republic of Ireland, who were unlucky not to equalise. Antoine Griezmann, Eduardo Camavinga, and Adrien Rabiot managed to string together a shocking 24 incomplete passes throughout the 90 minutes of action. In truth, one can describe the last 25 minutes of the game as the French defending and Ireland trying to pummel them through set pieces and counter-attacks. Overall this was not a bad showing by Ireland, against maybe the best national team in the world, despite it going down as a losing effort. Deschamps praised Ireland's aggressive play and how they threatened on set pieces. While Ireland's manager, Stephen Kenny, noted that his players gave it their all and that he is happy they showed character, rallying back strongly after going one goal down. Kenny added that there are six points to play for in June, and the feeling of disappointment should not loom over the team for long.

Are Greece a quality side?

In their opening Group B match, Greece expectedly and comfortably steam-rolled Gibraltar 3-0, at Estádio Algarve, Faro/Loulé in Portugal, in front of a little less than 400 people in the stands. The goals in this game, refereed by Rohit Saggi from Norway, came from Masouras in the 11th minute, Siopis in the 45th, and Bakasetas in the 59th. Realistically, this was not a competitive game, as few are, featuring Gibraltar because the team only has three players playing outside of the country's national league, and only one competes at a high level.

Hence, nothing can get learned from Greece's 3-0 thrashing of Gibraltar.

Greece celebrate vs Gibraltar
Greece celebrate vs Gibraltar

Pre the latest FIFA Ranking, Greece occupies the number 52 spot. Below Slovakia and ahead of Mali. What is interesting about the Greek national team is that even though they pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in sports history in 2004, taking home that year's Euro trophy, their highest FIFA ranking came in October 2011, when they rested on the number eight spot.

Their worst ranking came in 1998 when they found themselves at the 66th position in the Coca-Cola-sponsored standings.

Therefore, their current stop signifies that Greece is not living its best football days. They came in third place in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying group and disappointed in the 2020-21 Nations League. Like with Ireland, few predict that Greece will manage to jump over France or the Netherlands for one of the qualifying spots in Group B. Pundits expect that it will compete with Ireland for the number three position and the bragging rights that brings. That is all. Still, the team has multiple quality players like Giorgos Kyriakopoulos, Dinos Mavropanos, Kostas Tsimikas, and Dimitris Limnios. So, they may surprise one of the two favorites in their head-to-head match-ups but are unlikely to earn a qualifying spot. In all honesty, the Greece squad's quality is comparable to that one that the Boys in Green boast. Though, it is likely slightly below it, all in all.

Greece vs Republic of Ireland match preview

As mentioned above, the game will get played on June 16th, 2023, at The Agia Sophia Stadium, whose commercial name is the OPAP Arena, found on Fokon 11, Nea Filadelfia in Athens. It is AEK Athens' arena, listing a capacity of 32,500. Coming into the contest, the team's run of form in their last five matches is two draws, two wins and a loss for Greece, and two losses and three wins for Ireland.

Greece's five past results are:

· Greece 0 - 0 Lithuania · Gibraltar 0 - 3 Greece · Hungary 2 - 1 Greece · Malta 2 - 2 Greece · Greece 3 - 1 Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland's five last results are:

· Ireland 0 - 1 France · Ireland 3 - 2 Latvia · Malta 0 - 1 Ireland · Ireland 1 - 2 Norway · Ireland 3 - 2 Armenia In their last five showings, Greece's players scored nine goals and conceded five, while Ireland's footballers netted eight and took the ball out of their net seven times. These two teams have played against each other, with Greece winning twice with an identical score of 0-1 in away games, and they have drawn once, goalless, in 2002, in Greece. Stats say that Greece shoot more on goal, have a more aggressive defense, and have better-passing accuracy. Ireland win more fouls. But also give up more offenses and earn more yellow cards. The numbers also tell that Greece's players like to dribble more and pass the ball three times as much as their Irish counterparts, who prefer to make longer runs with the ball.

What do sportsbooks & pundits say?

In terms of who is more likely to make it out of the group, Greece or the Republic of Ireland, bet365 and other top-end internet betting hubs think that birthplace of democracy and the Olympic Games has four times better of a shot than Ireland reaching the number one or two spot in Group B at the end of the qualifying tournament. The famous American bookie DraftKings only gives Greece a slight edge over Ireland in this category, at +400 odds to +600, respectively. Concerning the head-to-head duel, it is too early for most bookmakers to post odds on this game. Still, it seems like most pundits seem to favor Greece to win. They have a better average match rating at home and have a better long-term run of form, even though they score fewer goals than the Irish.

What is Ireland's main road to victory?

An in-shape Matt Doherty can make all the difference for Ireland, as everyone who follows this squad knows. Yet, a massive question mark hovers over his head. The Tottenham Hotspur loanee has not been getting much playing time at Atletico Madrid and has publicly voiced his concern on this topic, asking for another place to call home. Nathan Collins, Wolverhampton's centre-back, and Josh Cullen, Burnley's defensive midfielder, are naturally crucial to Ireland's play.

Accordingly, if they put on stellar performances, anything is possible, particularly if they get joined by an in-the-mood Callum Robinson.

Callum Robinson of Ireland
Callum Robinson of Ireland

The Cardiff City striker has not dazzled this season thus far, but if he hits his stride in a match, he is a sizeable danger against anyone.

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