Pressure On Giovanni Trapattoni To Guide Ireland To Euro 2012by Sean Raymond / 11 November 2011, 11:20Tweet
Republic of Ireland are in action in Tallin tonight for the first leg of their nerve-racking play-off with Estonia as they seek to get an early advantage ahead of the second match in Dublin on Tuesday. The Irish will need no reminding that they haven't qualified for a European Championships since 1988 - which remainins their only appearance - and they know that drawing Estonia represents an ideal opportunity to qualify for Euro 2012. Expectation is already at fever pitch and as favourites both Ireland and their manager Giovanni Trapattoni are under immense pressure to deliver.
Ireland, of course, have had their fair share of play-off heartache, with agonising defeats to Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and France in the last 15 years. The controversial defeat to France was particularly hard to take and those bitter memories will no doubt motivate the Irish when they take the field tonight. This is perhaps the last chance for seasoned internationals like Robbie Keane and Shay Given to play in a major tournament and they will be desperate to seize the opportunity with both hands. Ireland are the 7/5 favourites to come away from Estonia with a win and the odds-on 4/11 favourites to qualify, with Keane priced at 11/2 to score the opening goal tonight.
While Ireland haven't reached a major tournament since World Cup 2002 their opponents Estonia have in fact never qualified for a major tournament with the play-offs against Ireland the biggest matches in their history. They are certainly no push-overs and like Ireland have progressed this far on merit. They admiringly fought off the challenge of Serbia and Solvenia in Group C and will do everything they can to book their place on the plane for Poland and Ukraine next summer.
Should Ireland fail to qualify then Trapattoni's four-year reign as Ireland manager would almost certainly come to an end. The Next Ireland Manager betting market with Paddy Power reveals that Birmingham City boss Chris Houghton is the favourite to replace the Italian should he leave. Other names in the frame include Marco Tardelli, Liam Brady and Martin O'Neill.
All odds provided by Paddy Power.