The next week will tell us what this Ireland U21 group are made of
Where do the Ireland under-21s stand?
Three wins from three and top of their qualification group, the Ireland U21s head into their next two fixtures against Norway and Italy full of confidence and belief.
Jim Crawford has named a largely unchanged squad for this international break, with Killian Phillips of Wycombe Wanderers, Kian Leavy of St Patrick’s Athletic, Sean Roughan of Lincoln City and Tayo Adaramola of Crystal Palace coming into the 24-man squad.
Leavy and Phillips have both been in especially excellent form for their respective clubs, with the latter using the recent media attention surrounding him as motivation to turn in some impressive performances in the past few games.
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) November 4, 2023
Roughan, who was left out of the last squad, is expected to be the first choice at left back, with Adaramola providing a competent, attacking alternative in that position.
Rocco Vata, who is the most glaring exclusion from the squad, is with the u19s who begin their Euros qualification campaign next week.
Ireland U21s face tough tasks.
Norway and Italy, two elite sides at underage level, will provide much stiffer tests than Crawford’s side has faced so far in the campaign. The pair faced off in the last international break, with Italy winning 2-0.
It is however, the Norwegians up first for Ireland as the Boys in Green head to Scandinavia on Friday.
The Ireland U21s have been drawn with challenging opponents Italy, Norway and Turkey for the upcoming qualification campaign 🇮🇪⚽️👊
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) February 2, 2023
Norway hold an array of attacking talent, with Andreas Schjelderup of Benfica and Joel Mvuka of Lorient in Lique 1 posing the greatest threat.
Ireland played a 4-3-3 in the 2-1 away victory against Latvia last month, with the attacking front three of Armstrong Oko-Flex (FC Zurich), Sinclair Armstrong (QPR) and Tony Springett (Norwich) all impressing in the victory.
But Crawford could very well switch to a 5-3-2 for both fixtures coming up.
It is a formation which he has used extensively against higher ranked nations in recent years, including the 3-2 victory against Turkey which opened this qualifying campaign.
Dedicating this one to Norwich lad Tony Springett 👏
Crawford overloaded the midfield for 70 mins but the introduction of Championship wingers/forwards Springett, Gilsenan & Emakhu changed the game
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) September 9, 2023
Bosun Lawal of Fleetwood (on loan from Celtic), Baba Adeeko of Wigan and Kian Leavy (St Pat’s) come into the camp in brilliant form and provide a strong spine for this u21 side.
It will be interesting to see how Crawford sets up for both games, and with the attacking quality on the wings in his squad, he could very well stick with a more fluid 4-3-3 which has worked well in recent games.
Both games over the next week could have a big say on the outcome of this group, as this very talented crop of players aim to become the first Ireland u21 squad to qualify for the European Championships.