Last-gasp goals are one of the things that we all love about football (apart from when our team is on the receiving end of one). And the Republic of Ireland national team is making a habit of providing drama in the closing minutes of their games, if recent showings are anything to go by.
Games against Belgium, Serbia, Azerbaijan, and now Lithuania, have seen late, result-changing goals. After the disappointment of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, where the team failed to make it to the finals in Qatar, it’s time for Ireland to move on and look to the future. Let’s take a look back at those recent, nail-biting games, and see what lies ahead.
Ireland nick it against Lithuania
Although Ireland dominated lowly Lithuania at the Aviva in Dublin, they came up short time and again in front of goal. Growing increasingly frustrated, passes began lacking accuracy, and shots sailed wide. And after four (yes, four) goals disallowed for offside, they must have thought it just wasn’t to be – but Tony Parrott had other ideas. Deep into stoppage time, the substitute fired in a zinger from twenty yards out, with practically the last kick of the game. The Tottenham striker, currently on loan at MK Dons, netted his third senior international goal, sparing Ireland’s blushes (Lithuania are currently ranked 134th in the world by FIFA).
‘To be fair to the players, the ability to get late goals is a very, very important quality in a team… You can’t underestimate the value of persistence, it’s a very important quality in the team and it speaks about the humility of the group, that manifests itself in the ability to keep going.’
- Republic of Ireland manager, Stephen Kelly, reacts to the late winner
Ireland vs Belgium
The injury-time winner against Lithuania isn’t a one-off. On March 26th the Republic of Ireland squared off with the number-one ranked team in the world, Belgium, at a raucous Aviva Stadium. The match was the Football Association of Ireland’s centenary game, and the national side didn’t disappoint. Belgium, tipped as one of the favourites in Qatar later in the year, scored first, Michy Batshuayi opening the scoring in fine style after 12 minutes. And Ireland withstood some heavy pressure, before replying courtesy of Chiedozie Ogbene, whose looping shot caught Simone Mignolet off-guard.
The near 50,000 strong crowds began to make themselves known, but Belgium found their rhythm, and capitalised with a 57th minute headed goal from Hans Vanaken. But Ireland didn’t want anything to spoil their big day, and piled on the pressure. And when substitute Alan Browne powered home a header in the 86th minute, most pundits agreed it was just what Ireland deserved. Late goals like that make placing a bet on the action all the more fun – and there are loads of football betting sites where faithful Irish fans can play. And with such last minute wins under their belt, many punters have been eying their wallets for some extra cash.
Failing to qualify, but taking some positives
Sadly, Ireland failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals in Qatar later in the year, pipped into third place by Serbia and Portugal, in what proved to be an extremely tough qualifying group. This is part of a wider rebuilding period for the national side, which hadn’t scored a goal in 660 minutes of international football when they played Serbia in the first game of the campaign. The side has become more cohesive, with an effective balance of youth and experience, and a rejuvenated feel among the players and staff.
As the team looks forward to the next qualifying campaign, many are looking even further into the future. Ireland is bidding – as part of a joint effort with England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland – to host the Euro 2028 tournament. The bid was announced in February this year, alongside rival bids from Turkey and Russia. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, their bid was thrown out, leaving a 50/50 chance of bringing to tournament, in part, to Ireland. If the bid is successful, it will be the first time a major football event has graced the country.
Ireland may not have made it to Qatar, but they have livened up their last few games with some thrilling late goals. With the national team rebuilding, don’t be surprised to see them qualify for the next big tournament.