No advantage for Republic of Ireland in Euro 2020 play-off – John Anderson

By Damian Spellman, PA
PA Media: Sport

Former international John Anderson has warned the Republic of Ireland not to believe that they have been handed the advantage in their Euro 2020 play-off clash with Slovakia.

The Slovak football association, the Slovensky Futbalovy Zvaz, confirmed on Tuesday that the semi-final showdown between the sides at the Narodny Futbalovy Stadion in Bratislava on Thursday, March 26 will be played behind closed doors as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, former Ireland defender Anderson claims that will be as detrimental to the visitors as it will to the home side.

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He told the PA news agency: “Does it give us more of an opportunity, more of a chance? I would probably say no because you want an atmosphere in the stadium and you want Irish supporters there as well.

“The support that travels away and the noise that they make, it’s a huge help, but not having anybody there at all, I think it will feel really, really strange. It will be really weird.

“Saying that, it’s probably the same for both sides. It will feel really, really strange for both teams to actually turn up in an empty stadium.”

Some of Ireland’s better performances in recent years have come on the road, with a controversial 1-1 play-off draw with France in 2009 costing them a place at the World Cup finals in South Africa, while more recently, they have won qualifiers in Austria and Wales and drawn in Germany.

However, Anderson admitted the current crop will be heading into the unknown in Bratislava in a game which will test even the experience of his one-time Republic team-mate and current boss Mick McCarthy.

He said: “I don’t know how you prepare players for this because I don’t think it something that Mick will have ever experienced either.

“You can’t really turn around and say, ‘Look, it’s going to be like a training game’, because you say that to players and all of a sudden, that mentality gets in your head.

“I suppose he’ll say, ‘Look, there’s a huge carrot dangling here. I know there’s going to be no crowd here, but we all know what’s riding on this. It’s a huge opportunity for you boys to go and play in a major finals. This is the first step towards it and if you want it, you have got to go and you have got to handle that situation’.”

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