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Problem-hit Irish can bounce back

Problem-hit Irish can bounce back

Newcastle defender Nicos Dabizas probably best summed up the Republic of Ireland's fate after he captained Greece in last night's goalless draw in Athens.

After performing so well at the World Cup finals, things have gone downhill dramatically for the Irish, who have lost their opening two Euro 2004 qualifiers against Russia and Switzerland.

Dabizas said: "I think the problem for Ireland is that they overachieved at the World Cup. When you do so well it is always very difficult to maintain it and that is perhaps why they are suffering a bit now.

"But they have a great spirit and they have some very talented players, and there are still a lot of games left to be played, so there is no reason why they cannot bounce back."

The Republic resume their qualifying campaign with a double header in Albania and Georgia in March and April and the key will be the having the right manager in place for those games.

Caretaker-boss Don Givens stressed the importance of appointing a new Republic of Ireland manager "sooner rather than later" after his team played out a low-key stalemate.

Under-21 manager Givens was put in temporary charge of the team while the FAI seek a successor to Mick McCarthy.

They hope to have their new man in place before the next international, a friendly in Scotland in February, and Givens believes a swift end to all the speculation will be in the best interests of the team.

"It is important that a new manager is appointed sooner rather than later," said Givens.

"All the boys are wondering what is going to happen and they will be reading the papers in the next few weeks with all the speculation, so

it will settle everything down if it is decided sooner rather than later."

Givens had stressed the need for a good result after Ireland suffered successive defeats in their opening two Euro 2004 Group 10

matches, and he was satisfied with the outcome, especially as he was forced to field an under-strength team.

"Avoiding defeat was paramount for us," said Givens.

"I would have liked to win but I am delighted not to have been beaten, it was a professional performance from the boys.

"There were a lot of plusses tonight. Richard Dunne performed very well at left-back and John O'Shea looked good for someone who is early in his international career.

"The new boys did well and Glen Crowe was excellent in the first half, he didn't look out of his depth.

"Overall I am satisfied with the result. The way the team was set up we were always going to be more defensive than attacking. I could see us being very solid defensively, but in the first half we were the better team and had the better chances.

"That dried up after half-time because we were pushed back a bit, but we defended well and I never felt we would concede a goal - although I never felt we would score either in the second half."

Evening Chronicle


232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.