MEET THE GUYS AIMING TO DERAIL IRELAND’S EURO 2012 HOPES
The Score, Ireland
Oct 10 2011
WHEN ARMENIA STEP on to the playing surface at the Aviva Stadium
tomorrow evening, Giovanni Trapattoni and his team will be well aware
of their capabilities.
Should the visitors lose, Ireland will be the only team in Group B
not to have dropped points to their Eurasian counterparts. Have we
caught your attention yet?
Only a stunning goal from Keith Fahey separated the sides when the
two teams met in Yerevan over 12 months ago and that result has become
increasingly impressive as the Armenians’ campaign has continued.
Ireland were tested at the back that day – Richard Dunne and Sean St
Ledger doing well against relatively unknown threats – and the same
players that coach Vardan Minasyan has spent time blooding over the
last couple of months have improved several times over since. Armenia
are capable of putting a massive dent in Irish hopes, if given the
Armenia would not have had a goalscorer of note within their squad
before the current campaign. Twenty one goals later they are the
top-scoring team in the group (eight more than Ireland, ten more than
Russia), and have only conceded one extra goal when you compare their
tally to our defensive record at the other end.
Most of their players play in the domestic league – many under
Minasyan’s guidance at Pyunik Yerevan – but they also have guys
based in Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Their are lead by their captain
Sargis Hovsepyan, who has 120 + caps, and is a defender with plenty
Gevorg Ghazaryan and Yura Movsisyan are two more to keep an eye
out for. The former plays with Metalurh Donetsk and now has six
international goals to his name at the age of 22, with team-mate
Movsisyan (24) also making a fine contribution while plying his trade
with Russia side Krasnodar.
The biggest danger is likely to come from playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan
though, who has been a key factor behind their success. The Shakhtar
Donetsk man troubled Shay Given in Yerevan and is his team’s joint
top scorer at the moment, along with Ghazaryan.
A former midfield international for his country, Armenian Vardan
Minasyan looks after the national side as well as club side Pyunik
Yerevan. As a player he spent the bulk of his time with the same team
but also had brief spells overseas with Lausanne Sports and Lokomotiv
His move into management started at Pyunik and he went on to become
assistant coach to Ian Porterfield – the man who took over Aberdeen
after Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United in 1986, was the first
man to be sacked by a Premier League club (Chelsea) in 1993 and who
was then in charge of the Armenian national team for a time.
Minasyan took over the reins briefly after Porterfield’s resignation in
2007 (he was suffering with cancer) and though the national football
association flirted with other coaches including Dane Jan Poulsen,
they re-engaged the 37-year-old’s services in February 2010 and
haven’t looked back since.
What it all means:
Armenia’s pacey counter-attacks caused Ireland plenty of concern in
the first game. They come to Dublin knowing that they have already
exceeded expectations and have nothing to lose. A draw will do Ireland,
but nothing is secured yet and it’s worth remembering that Armenia’s
only other defeat in the group was in Moscow.
These guys may have been minnows once, but no longer. Unfortunately,
we could well see that reflected in the tactics Trapattoni and Marco
Tardelli decide to employ to ensure another play-off spot for the
Boys in Green.