Shay Given will captain the Republic of Ireland in the climatic Euro 2012 qualifier against Armenia at the Aviva Stadium this evening (kick-off 6.45pm).
The Aston Villa goalkeeper, who will also win a record 118th cap, will take the armband from Robbie Keane, who is an absentee because of an abductor muscle injury. Russia’s 1-0 victory in Slovakia means they will top Group B if they beat pointless Andorra this evening in the final round of fixtures.
A point against the Armenians, who hammered Macdonia 4-1 in Yerevan on Friday, will ensure a November play-off for Ireland, but three successive victories and 11 goals in the process suggest that is by no means a foregone conclusion. For their part, Ireland have now kept eight clean sheets in succession.
“They have scored eight goals in the last two games, so they are really on a high at the minute, so it will be a big test for us all on Tuesday night,” Given said.
“A draw is enough for us, but we don’t want to be holding out for a draw because anything can happen in the last minute. Hopefully we can go and win the game and it puts them out of the way.
“We have got a huge chance on Tuesday night, but we know Armenia are coming strongly behind us as well, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
Seamus Coleman has vowed to keep working hard ahead of the game. The Everton winger, who turns 23 today, was part of the travelling squad for the trip to Andorra last week, as goals from Kevin Doyle and an own goal from Ildefons Lima sealed a 2-0 Irish victory. Coleman, however, was not named in the 18-man squad against the side who are joint-bottom of the Fifa World Rankings.
“Obviously I was very disappointed but there were another five lads up in the stand in the same situation,” the Killybegs native said on Sunday after an open training session at Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium.
“No-one’s going to be happy when they’re not on the bench but you have to get over that. The most important thing is the team and getting the win.
“Being a professional footballer you want to be on the pitch and if not the pitch, the bench. But you’ve just got to get on with it, work hard in training and see what happens.
“I don’t really want to be sitting in the stands but once the decision is made, you support your team and hope the lads do well because it would be fantastic for the country to qualify. So I’m not going to throw my toys out of the pram. I’m not like that. I want to be involved but if that isn’t the case I’ll just work harder.”
Manager Giovanni Trappatoni yesterday named his team for the visit of Armenia. It shows three changes from the team that won on Friday. Stephen Ward is suspended having been booked in Andorra and Stephen Kelly will come in at left-back. Richard Dunne returns from his one-game ban and will play instead of Darren O’Dea at centre-back and West Bromwich Albion striker Simon Cox comes in for the injured Keane up front.
Irish team: Shay Given, John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne, Stephen Kelly, Aidan McGeady, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox.