Kevin Moran - We've got one foot at Euro 2016

SoccerBy Kevin Moran
Big decisions for O'Neill ahead of play-off decider
Big decisions for O'Neill ahead of play-off decider

Any lingering disappointment that Ireland didn’t get a famous win in Zenica last Friday night should be banished with this one thought.

If Ireland had a got a 1-1 result by equalising, we’d have been elated to secure a draw and bagging an away goal in the first leg of this Euro 2016 play-off. 

A 1-1 scoreline, now matter how it came about, is far better for Ireland than a 0-0. It means Bosnia have to take risks tomorrow night in the Aviva Stadium.

One thing is now certain, if Bosnia don’t score in 90 minutes, we are going to Euro 2016 and they will be staying at home.

So the pressure is on them and I don’t think they are cut out for it, as I think they totally over-hyped themselves and their home advantage in Zenica.

It was as if they believed Ireland would fall apart when faced with their tight ground and zealous home support.

That they would win 3-0 and tomorrow’s match would be a handy lap of honour in Dublin. And the longer the first leg went on, and it dawned on them that this Irish team was well up for any battle, was well organised by Martin O’Neill and certainly were not going to fall apart, the worse they got.

I was very disappointed with the home team. Yes, Edin Dzeko showed his class by taking the one chance that came his way, but Bosnia had little about them.

For that, though, you have to give a huge deal of credit to Ireland, who were sent out with the right tactics and were then superb in executing them.

O’Neill choked the Bosnian supply by packing midfield. Our players worked hard,tackled and covered and they did what I asked them to do last Sunday in this column; they concentrated and looked out for each other.

All of that made the concession of the goal all the more galling when three mistakes were made in five seconds of play and they added up to a goal.

It was the only time in the whole match that we were not pitch-perfect, but that is why international football is the elite of the game - make one mistake, never mind three, and you will pay.

James McClean didn’t cover the run, Marc Wilson didn’t come out early enough to cover McClean and for once Richard Keogh wasn’t right beside Dzeko.

But Bosnia attacked on the left all through the match – and it is a sad fact that when teams see us selecting Stephen Ward at left-back they invariably take on Ireland down that wing.

A lot of that is down to the fact that they don’t want to take on Seamus Coleman down the other one, but Ward (above) is a liability and the one real selection issue that faces O’Neill is whether to risk playing Ward again, in a match where the opposition may have to resort to all out attack at some point, or replace him with any of Wilson, Robbie Brady, or Ciaran Clark.

Wilson has played left back regularly, as has Brady, while Clark has played there for Aston Villa and could do so if John O’Shea (right) is fit to return at centre-half.

Taking Brady out of midfield would give O’Neill the chance to use a pair of fresh legs in the engine room and I think that is going to be important. With Ireland only flying home yesterday, our players have little enough recovery time for this vital match.

Jon Walters will surely come in up front, but does he come in with Robbie Keane as a striking partner? Or does O’Neill continue to pack midfield and tease Bosnia into battling their way through that sector before striking on the break again?

His withdrawal of Wes Hoolahan after an hour’s game time in Zenica would seem to indicate that Ireland playing 4-4-1-1 in the Aviva. I expect to see Hoolahan in action behind Walters and then McClean or Aiden McGeady coming into the starting XI, but only if Brady drops to left-back.

After Bosnia failed to deliver with home advantage Ireland must take the hint and not think that this tie is over. One Bosnian goal in Dublin is all it would take to undo all the good work of last Friday night.

So we have to play this cagily. Ireland need not attack wildly, but there must also be a reality that we might have to score twice tomorrow night to secure the passport to France.

And you know what, I think we can. Bosnia’s defence may play in the Bundesliga and Serie A, but they looked unsure last Friday.

Walters’ power play will certainly unsettle them, Shane Long might be good to go for 20 minutes and there’s still the goal threat of Robbie Keane. We have a foot in the door of Euro 2016.

Now Ireland have to drag the other one across the threshhold. It won’t be easy, but I say it will be done!