UEFA Under-21 European Championship qualifier: Iceland v Republic of Ireland


Tuesday 15 October, Víkingsvöllur, 4pm (Irish time).

The reaction to the draw with Italy in Dublin gives you a sense of the expectation in this Ireland under-21 team.

"We've played one of the top two teams in Europe and we're disappointed not to win," said manager Stephen Kenny afterwards.

"There wasn't a feeling of accomplishment having got the draw in the dressing room. It was sort of like, that was a couple of points that got away."

It's a result that leaves qualification for the finals at this level, for the first time ever, very much in Ireland's hands.

Four games, seven goals scored, just one conceded, and top of Group I having held top on Thursday. They still have to play them away, but all things considered Kenny must be pretty happy with how things are going.

Table courtesy of UEFA

They head to Reykjavík to take on an Iceland side who were heavily beaten on Saturday by Sweden, who Ireland already defeated 3-1 last month.

There are concerns for Kenny though, with Troy Parrott (suspension) and Jonathan Afolabi (injury) both out of the game. The Ireland manager has also had his attacking wings clipped, with Aaron Connolly's elevation to the senior squad.

There's still plenty of quality in the team, with Conor Masterson and Dara O'Shea a solid defensive partnership, while fulll-backs Liam Scales and Lee O'Connor can be dangerous going forward.

Up front Adam Idah has scored a couple in this campaign. Michael Obafemi bizarrely made his senior international debut last November, but only played his first game at this age level in Tallaght against the Italians.

His last 12 months has been plagued by injury, but he can score goals if he gets a sniff.

Obafemi will be looking to make his mark

Iceland shouldn't be taken for granted. Despite shipping five goals in Helsingborg over the weekend, they scored nine goals in their opening two games.

They managed six against Armenia, whereas Stephen Kenny's side could only muster a single goal.

The game is being played in a small ground, on an artificial pitch, with temperatures set to remain in single digits, so Kenny's charges will have to lift their game once more.

Masterson has urged his team-mates to back themselves ahead of the crunch tie.

"We believe in ourselves and you see it by the way we're playing," he said.

"Against Sweden, we were the underdogs going into that game but we didn't think that. We believed in ourselves, went out there and showed everyone in this group what we can do."

The hosts' squad is a mix between home based and foreign based players, with Mikael Anderson, Aarhus Gymnastikforening plying their trade in Denmark, Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen in Italy, Willum Thor Willumsson in Belarus, Kolbeinn Finnsson in Germany, and goalkeeper Patrik Sigurður Gunnarsson at Brentford.

Defeat would be a blow to the momentum that Ireland have built up, but three points could solidify their place in the top two, and a play-off place at the very least.

Stephen Kenny isn't under any illusions about the task at hand.

"Iceland have had a really good start themselves. We go there and play on Tuesday afternoon on an AstroTurf pitch. We've got to adapt to that and make sure we're ready.

"We've had a great start. It'll be a real tough test for us out there."

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