Tonight sees Ireland take on Poland in a crunch Euro qualifier game with all their goalkeepers in contention for a place.
The Polish management have already declared that Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski has ousted his former Arsenal teammate Wojciech Szczesny to start in goal, despite the latter’s previous excellence between the sticks against Germany.
Fabianski’s promotion was something of a surprise, as ex-Celt Artur Boruc has been enjoying a solid season with promotion-chasing Bournemouth in the Championship and brings a wealth of international experience to the mix.
But What about Ireland?
As has been written extensively this week, Shay Given has returned to the fold determined to regain his international jersey from David Forde following a number of sterling displays in Aston Villa’s FA Cup run.
Forde himself has been struggling at the wrong end of the Championship table with Millwall, yet hasn’t really done much wrong for the Lions or in European qualifying so far.
The Poles have opted for the goalkeeper who is playing most consistently at the highest ranking club and if Martin O’Neill were to follow suit we can expect to see Kieren Westwood pull on the number one jersey for Ireland tonight.
The former Sunderland stopper has been in great form for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship but will he get his rewards tonight? Will dropping Szcesny prove to be a master stroke for the Poles? Do Ireland plump for a similar strategy or keep with the tried and trusted? Will tonight’s match reward or punish a brave selection?
While it may not be the same kind of high-risk strategy employed by Louis Van Gaal, by introducing Tim Krul during last year’s World Cup quarter-final, one mistake could cost Ireland dearly but one great save could prove the difference between qualifying and not, even at this early stage.
Tom O’Connor, Pundit Arena