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A-League caught out by the international break, and a Socceroo legend up for a big award

By Colm Boohig

Scotland and the Republic of Ireland meet at Celtic Park this evening in their Euro 2016 qualifier. In a group that contains the world champions Germany, Scotland and Ireland have both performed above expectations so far. Ireland lie in second, having amassed seven points from a possible nine, including a 1-1 draw away to Germany, while Scotland sit in fourth place in Group D, level on points with the Germans.

 

With the European Championships increased from 16 to 24 nations for the 2016 tournament in France, this is a wonderful opportunity for both of these countries to qualify. Considering their respective form, the tie is already exciting enough on paper but the week’s build-up to the game has provided extra anticipation.

Ireland’s midfielder duo, James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady – both born and raised in Scotland – were in line to face their parent nation for the first time. A hostile reception from the home faithful awaits and has been increased further following the comments of former Scotland international Gordon McQueen. The ex-defender has labelled the duo a “disgrace” for taking advantage of the ‘Granny Rule’ and choosing to play for Ireland. Yesterday, McCarthy was ruled out of the game with injury but McGeady is expected to play in a ground he used to line out for with Celtic.

 

As if that wasn’t enough to whet the appetite, Irish assistant manager Roy Keane has once again been in the headlines. An incident with a fan at the team hotel in Dublin led to an ambulance and the police being called. Although Keane has been cleared of any wrongdoing (it was he who phoned the authorities) it is far from ideal preparation for such a crucial match. Manager Martin O’Neill has had to release a statement on his, and the FAI’s, behalf exonerating Keane of any blame and giving him their full backing.

 

Incidentally, both O’Neill and Keane have strong allegiances to Celtic Park, having managed and played there, respectively. With so many sub-plots to this encounter the eyes of Europe will be on Glasgow on Friday night.

 

Elsewhere, the Socceroos face Japan in Osaka on Tuesday to round off a relatively positive 2014 and a first full year in charge for Ange Postecoglu. However, domestic affairs have been grabbing the headlines this past week as the A-League’s “Big Blue” match (Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC) will be affected by a host of players called up for international duty. With the A-League not abiding by the FIFA international calendar, one of the league’s biggest fixtures has been slightly tarnished, on paper at least. It is definitely time for the A-League to rethink their strategy.

 

Finally, in much more positive news, Tim Cahill has been nominated for the Puskas Award – FIFA’s top ten goals of the year. The strike in question was of course Cahill’s thunderous volley against the Netherlands at the World Cup (see below).

 

http://youtu.be/p2tmftLN2lY

 

Fans can get voting for their favourite out of the 10 goals on http://www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/index.html.

 

Some astonishing strikes among the nominees, none more so that Peamount United forward Stephanie Roche’s sumptuous finish. If Cahill can’t take the trophy back to Oz, let’s hope Steph can duly oblige.

 

Go on Timmy (and Steph)!

 

Image Courtesy of Weszlo.com