World Cup qualifiers: Ireland v Luxembourg – kick-off time, TV details, team news and more
Visitors have enjoyed good results in recent years and will expect to take points in Group A
Ireland face Luxembourg in their second World Cup qualifier on Saturday. Photo: Andrej Cukic/EPA
Ultimately, Stephen Kenny’s first World Cup qualifier as Ireland manager ended in disappointment on Wednesday night as his side left Serbia with a loss and the quest to reach Qatar 2022 is looking tougher than it already was.
However, there is no doubt that there were encouraging signs in Belgrade. Kenny is seen by many as the man to take Irish football forward, implement a more favourable way of playing and create a different image on the international stage than the put ‘em under pressure philosophy of old.
However, international football is very much a results business and nine matches in charge with zero wins is a poor record for any Ireland manager, regardless of the numerous bouts of bad luck Kenny has endured.
Expectations will now be very much geared towards racking up that first win when Group A’s lowest seeds, Luxembourg, come to town for matchday two of this qualifying campaign.
Here is all you need to know.
What is it?
It’s Ireland’s second 2022 World Cup qualifier at home to Luxembourg on Saturday.
When is it?
Kick-off is at 7.45pm at Lansdowne Road.
What are the other fixtures in the group?
With Azerbaijan the odd-team out of this five-team group on Saturday (they play Qatar in a friendly) it leaves Serbia to welcome Portugal to Belgrade. Cristiano Ronaldo and co only managed to beat Azerbaijan 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to an own goal but they are still very much favourites to win the group, leaving the second place playoff spot to be battled out between Serbia and Ireland. If we’re to go with that logic than a win for Portugal in Belgrade is the best result for Ireland as it would mean, if Kenny’s team beat Luxembourg in Dublin, they will be level on points with the Serbs who then face a tricky assignment in Baku on Tuesday.
Saturday, March 27th
Ireland v Luxembourg, Dublin (7.45pm)
Serbia v Portugal, Belgrade (7.45pm)
Friendly: Qatar v Azerbaijan, Debrecen (5pm)
Tuesday, March 30th
Azerbaijan v Serbia, Baku (5pm)
Luxembourg v Portugal, Luxembourg City (7.45pm)
Friendly: Qatar v Ireland, Debrecen (7.45pm)
Early days yet, but how is the table looking?
There’s still a long way to go and plenty of twists and turns in this group but, for anyone who wants to know, this is how we stand.
How can I follow it?
Ireland’s qualifiers will be shown by both RTÉ and Sky Sports. If you want to watch on the national broadcaster, coverage gets underway at 7pm on RTÉ2 while over on Sky it’s Sky Sports Main Even from 7.30pm. If you want to keep an eye on Serbia v Portugal you can do so via the red button on Sky Sports Football.
If you’re otherwise engaged you can also join me on The Irish Times liveblog which will begin at 7pm.
Aaron Connolly is the only player from Wednesday's loss in Belgrade who will not be available on Saturday. The Brighton forward was substituted with cramp after 65 minutes but has now returned to his club and will not be involved.
That means Kenny will largely go into Saturday’s match with the same squad to choose from and some encouraging signs from the likes of Alan Browne, Callum Robinson and Josh Cullen.
Whether Kenny sticks with Mark Travers in goal after his error for Serbia’s second might be up for some debate but, given that the alternatives are the equally inexperienced Kieran O’Hara or the uncapped Gavin Bazunu, it is very likely that the Bournemouth man will keep his place and it will be up to Kenny, his staff and team to ensure the young goalkeeper can forget about Wednesday.
Jeff Hendrick, who came on for Jayson Molumby after an hour, may get the nod to start. Although Molumby did look comfortable in the midfield Kenny admitted afterwards that he had “run out of gas” after 60 minutes which is an indicator of how little game time he has had at Preston North End where he is currently on loan from Brighton.
James Collins was brought on in Belgrade and managed to score Ireland's second which might see him start in Connolly's absence. Troy Parrott and Shane Long are the other forward options.
Ireland squad: Mark Travers (Bournemouth), Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion); Séamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham), Shane Duffy (Celtic), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Ciarán Clark (Newcastle United), Dara O’Shea (West Brom), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), Cyrus Christie (Nottingham Forest), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Browne (Preston), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (Preston), Jason Knight (Derby County), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Robbie Brady (Burnley), James McClean (Stoke City), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Callum Robinson (West Brom), Aaron Connolly (Brighton), Shane Long (Bournemouth), James Collins (Luton Town), Troy Parrott (Ipswich Town).
What do we know about Luxembourg?
Given the tiny size of the country it might be expected that Luxembourg would be the lowest seeds in Ireland’s group but, thanks to some impressive Nations League results over the last few years, they are actually the fourth seeds while Azerbaijan are fifth.
Indeed Luxembourg came close to getting promoted from League C in last year’s Nations League – eventually finishing second to Montenegro – which would have seen them move up to League B, the same division Ireland narrowly avoided relegation from.
In that campaign they also faced Azerbaijan and beat them away from home before drawing in the return game. They also managed a win against familiar Irish foes Cyprus at home as well as a very impressive 2-1 win away to Montenegro.
Although they come in to Saturday’s match off the back of a 1-0 friendly loss to Qatar on Wednesday, they will by no means be a pushover in this group and will fancy their chances of taking something from Dublin.
Put it this way: there’s no Gibraltar or San Marino in this group.
So an Ireland win and a Portugal win would make for a good Saturday night?
It certainly would and you could even celebrate with an extra drink while sitting on your own couch.