With a galaxy of stars from Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea among others due to open the Maracana stadium on Sunday night and Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA welcoming his native Germany, it’s easy to overlook Republic of Ireland v Georgia in Sunday’s international friendly schedule.
While it’s hardly a game to quicken the pulse of football fan or punter alike, Ireland’s manager Giovanni Trapattoni will look to consolidate on Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with England at Wembley, ahead of next Friday’s World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands.
Irish eyes were delirious with 13 minutes gone in north-west London as Shane Long’s forehead met Seamus Coleman’s measured centre. And although Frank Lampard levelled soon after, it was the Irish opener that provided the game’s true moment of quality.
It even brought a smile from the stone face of Roy Keane.
Trapattoni was delighted with his players’ performance, especially his young stars Long, Coleman and James McCarthy. The iridescent Italian has had his fair share of stick for his obdurate attitude towards blooding the junior members of his squad, but his recent change of tact has breathed new life into an aging post-Euro 2012 team.
That should continue against the Jvarosnebi at the Aviva stadium this weekend, with the likes of James McClean, Jeff Hendrick and Simon Cox pushing for starting places after their substitute appearances in the week.
Ireland are odds-on favourites in bwin’s 3way market at 24/50 for victory, while the draw can be backed at 29/10, and the visitors’ a hefty 25/4.
Georgia’s trip to Dublin didn’t get off to the best start, as their plane had to make an emergency landing. The team ranked 96th in FIFA’s world rankings make curious opponents; they are managed by former Newcastle midfielder Temuri Ketsbaia (advertising hoardings beware), captained by ex-Rangers and Blackburn defender Zurab Khizanishvili, and have more goalkeepers (four) than strikers (two) in their 28-man party.
They are undoubtedly stronger opposition than the Faroe Islands – all-conquering Spain only beat them 1-0 in Tbilisi last September – but Ireland are deserved favourites and should be expected to record a comfortable victory on Sunday.
They are far too short to back in bwin’s 3way market, but there is better value in the handicap and halftime/fulltime markets.
Ireland (-1) are 7/5, while they are also 15/13 to be winning at both half-time and full-time. I realise that, much like the fixture, these bets are hardly the most exciting, but they could well represent the equivalent of free money.
The two sides have met four times previously, with Ireland emerging victorious on all four occasions, the most recent a pair of 2-1 wins during the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
Ireland’s recent form in friendlies is decent too; they defeated Oman 4-1 last September, as well as overturning Poland 2-0 in February.
Both fixtures would have seen the Boys in Green win in similar handicap and double result markets, and I would expect more of the same on Sunday.
New customer staking their free £20 bet could expect returns of £48 for an Irish victory by two goal plus, or £43.08 for Ireland to be ahead at half-time and full-time.