Republic of Ireland v New Zealand
Thursday November 14, 19:45
Live On Sky Sports Football
A form student's nightmare
Thursday's international friendly between Republic of Ireland and New Zealand is a bit of a test for those punters who concentrate on recent form.
Mick McCarthy has promised to reshuffle his entire side with Monday's Euro 2020 decider with Denmark in mind.
Indeed, he has suggested that only one or two players that feature in this match have a realistic prospect of involvement in a game that Ireland must win to qualify for next summer's finals.
Meanwhile, New Zealand are playing their first match in almost a year-and-a-half, a product of their unusual status as the top dog in Oceania which means there are long breaks in the early stage of the World Cup cycle.
When they last played a senior international game, Martin O'Neill was in charge of Ireland and Declan Rice was the next big thing.
A fair bit of water has passed under the bridge since then but McCarthy will use this distraction from the Danish homework to give a debut to a homegrown talent that will almost certainly be around for the long haul.
Tottenham Hotspur teenager Troy Parrott has generated a buzz at club level this term and the 17-year-old made a competitive first team debut against Colchester in September having impressed in high-level pre-season friendlies.
Mauricio Pochettino hasn't had much scope for experimentation since then but Parrott did make the bench for the Premier League clash with Everton in the absence of Harry Kane and that was enough to generate more headlines in Ireland where there is a desperate desire for an Irish player to genuinely break through with a top club.
The central striker has been compared with Robbie Keane, which are big boots to fill in an international context. Parrott has different attributes, as he's regarded as quite big for his age but he also has an ability on the ball that has wowed teammates. He's got an eye for goal but he may not be as predatory as Keane, the Irish assistant coach who has worked with him in training.
McCarthy has confirmed he will start through the middle of a 4-3-3. Robbie Brady, who does have a point to prove with Denmark in mind, likely comes in on the right side. There will also be a debut for Celtic's Lee O'Connor at right full and a first Irish start for Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne in the centre of the park. He impressed as a sub in September's win over Bulgaria. The plan was to use Brighton's Aaron Connolly on the left but he misses out through injury. Stoke's James McClean is one of the most durable members of the Ireland squad but it might still be considered a risk to use him. Bristol City's Sean Maguire is a possible contender.
Either way, this will be an Irish side that has never played together before – taking on a side that hasn't played in a long time. In that context, it would be a risk to get massively involved in the final outcome and the [1.59] for a home win might just be on the short side given the unknowns that exist.
New Zealand are a modest enough side but they do have Premier League players such as Winston Reid and Chris Wood and their media are indicating this fixture is a big deal for them after a long hiatus. There could be trading potential in laying Ireland – although it must be acknowledged that the All-Whites haven't beaten a European team since 2010 – but the best bets are elsewhere here.
It might come down to fine margins and set pieces against the Danes and a look at the stats would urge backers to lean towards the Unders in scoring markets in Republic of Ireland games.
However, their friendly matches tend to be different, particularly at the Aviva, where the game can really open up on the wide pitch if there isn't a competitive intensity. Ireland defeated Bulgaria 3-1 in September in McCarthy's first friendly of the year and it's entirely plausible this match could take on a similar personality. The [1.8] for Over 2.5 Goals is likely to trade at a more attractive price closer to the off and it's a bet in either scenario. Indeed, it's possible that the [3.0] about Over 3.5 could pay off too although it might be worth to sit and wait through the opening minutes before playing.
Set piece angle
For a fun angle on this match, Sportsbook have priced up the goalscoring markets and a little knowledge can go a long way here. Rovers midfielder Byrne is an exceptional threat from dead balls and he made an instant impact against Bulgaria by sending in a corner that was dispatched by the head of Kevin Long. It's worth considering the service he offers in the first and last goalscorer markets as there will be inviting crosses for the taller Irish players to attack. The returning Ciaran Clark and Long are likely to feature in central defence although they can both operate on the left of the two. It's 14/1 about Clark to break the deadlock or have the last word and 25/1 about Long for same.
Considering the duo are almost certain to play the full 90 – unlike most of the others who will start – then it's worth spreading stakes and dabbling in this department.
This post first appeared here