Republic of Ireland head into battle with Estonia on Friday evening aware that victory in Tallinn would leave them with one foot firmly in the Euro 2012 finals.
Last Updated: 11/11/11 3:50pm
The Republic of Ireland head into battle with Estonia on Friday evening aware that victory in Tallinn would leave them with one foot firmly in the Euro 2012 finals. Here, we look at three individual battles that will likely decide matters at the A Le Coq Arena.
RAIO PIIROJA v ROBBIE KEANE
Estonia skipper Piiroja, who plays his club football in Holland with Vitesse Arnhem, boasts vast experience having amassed 107 senior caps. However, the central defender is likely to have his hands full with fit-again Ireland skipper Robbie Keane, who is his country's record international goalscorer with 51 in 111 appearances. Keane, who scored in the Western Conference final win over Real Salt Lake at the weekend, has conceded this is likely to be his last chance to help Ireland qualify for a major tournament.
KONSTANTIN VASSILJEV v GLENN WHELAN
Attacking midfielder Vassiljev was Estonia's leading scorer during the qualifying campaign with five goals, and is given freedom to roam by enforcer Aleksandr Dmitrijev. Stoke's Whelan has been a constant alongside Keith Andrews in the middle of Giovanni Trapattoni's midfield for the last two campaigns, and the degree to which he can limit the Amkar Perm man could prove crucial. Although some Ireland fan have voiced misgivings about whether there is enough creativity in Ireland's midfield, with Seamus Coleman's omission a continued moot point, Whelan is a steady performer. He'll need to be on his game to ensure the talented Vassiljev is kept quiet.
JARMO AHJUPERA v RICHARD DUNNE
Hungary-based Ahjupera is likely to play as a lone striker with support from Vassiljev and Middlesbrough's Tarmo Kink. Ahjupera provides a physical presence but this being his main attribute should play into the hands of the experienced centre-half. Dunne has been one of the Republic's star performers in qualification, spectacularly so in Russia in September, and another commanding display by the Aston Villa man would lay a firm foundation for his side.
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