'Positive' French can be repelled, says Kerr
DURING THE recent qualifying campaign Brian Kerr and his band of Faroe Islanders faced Raymond Domenech and the French opposition the Republic of Ireland must now overcome to make next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa, writes GAVIN CUMMISKEY
Liam Brady was asked yesterday whether the Irish management will be consulting Kerr ahead of the home play-off against France on November 14th.
After a long pause Brady responded: “That will be up to the manager. I can’t answer that. Knowing Giovanni, he will watch every one of their games on DVD.”
Trapattoni confirmed his vast knowledge of the French squad yesterday. Still, we felt it prudent to seek an opinion from the former Ireland boss about what lies ahead.
Kerr’s Faroes troubadours finished bottom of Group Seven with four points from 10 games but two groundbreaking results were achieved; a 1-1 draw with Austria and a historic 2-1 defeat of Lithuania that saw them climb 41 places in the Fifa world rankings.
They kept France to a respectable 1-0 defeat at home but blew up away, losing 5-0 (“They battered us. They played it in a small ground up in Brittany. The place was jammed.”) to a team desperately scrambling to qualify ahead of eventual group winners Serbia.
“They have got better as the games went on. They lost 3-1 to Austria early on, which was a bit of a disaster for them. They were all set-piece goals Austria scored. Two of them were identical. Wide free-kicks – one of them nearly went in directly, the other was an og. The other a penalty after a pull at a corner-kick.
“They were two-nil down away to Romania in the first 15 minutes but they played fantastically well after that and drew two-two.”
Kerr still can’t quite understand how they drew twice with Romania, such was their dominance.
“But that bodes well for Ireland. All that technical ability and talent can be repelled. The two key matches were at home to Romania and away to Serbia. At home to Romania they had about 70 per cent of possession and they didn’t make it count and Romania scored on one of their few attacks.
“So, they failed to finish off Romania would be the thing I would say despite all the attacking quality they have. The problem is getting the balance right.”
With 10 men they drew in Serbia. “France also dominated that game.”
“Talk of their morale not being right, I would discount that. There didn’t look anything wrong with them in their last few games. No moaning when players were taken off. Thierry Henry is their leader and William Gallas is another who leads from the back.”
The French have adopted a 4-2-1-3 formation, built around Milan’s Yoann Gourcuff, despite a recent injury, while Henry drifts wide left. Lassana Diarra replicates his role as an anchor for Real Madrid, filling the void vacated by Claude Makelele.
Like Stephen Hunt suggested last week, going to Paris first would have been Kerr’s preference.
“Overall, France are a very positive, attacking team. Their full backs are up attacking. At times the system is 2-2-6. The centre-backs are back, the holding midfielders hold and everyone else has an attacking philosophy. That leaves them open to counter.
“I don’t think we have an advantage to be at home first except if the team get confidence by a good result.
“On a personal level, I have always wanted to get a good result away and then come home and defend that.”
One thing Kerr does believe is Ireland, under Trapattoni, have not come across opposition of this calibre. And that includes the world champions.
“We played against a 10-man Italian team away. If it was an 11-man team it would have been a tougher prospect. There is more variation in the French team. More experience. More of a goal-scoring threat. But they may not be as good defensively as Italy. Then again, Italy were not that good defensively anyway.”
So, how does he think the game will pan down?
“I think we have a bit of a chance. They will be a different kettle of fish to what this team has played. I watched some of the tapes of games they didn’t win and I was amazed they didn’t. They haven’t been very lucky in the group.
“A team with poor morale wouldn’t have come back from 1-0 down, away to Serbia with 10 men and four points behind in the group.”