Competition: International Friendly

Date: 23 March 2024

Result: Ireland 0 – 0 Belgium

Tickets:  About €30 for adults and €15 for kids when you break down the season ticket.

Attendance: 38,128

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: The first of what is likely to be two games in charge for John O’Shea (though on tonight’s evidence, there could be an argument for more), Ireland controlled this game against an admittedly weakened Belgium side captained by Youri Tielemens, who apparently captains Belgium exclusively when they come to Dublin.

With the impressive looking attacking trio of Ferguson, Ogbene and debutant Szmodics having lots of the play and Nathan Collins impressive at the back, there is the obvious spine of a team here ready to go, something that’s felt missing for a while. Szmodics on debut had a particularly good game, and while Ferguson is extremely highly regarded, it was his penalty being saved, as well as an Ogbene missed one-on-one in the opening minutes that probably cost a win against the world number four, who offered little. Unusually strong from Ireland.

The ground:  The Aviva up high on a March evening is absolutely baltic, with large chunks of the crowd retreating to under the stands until right before the whistle and as soon as the break came along. Good view though and the good has improved a bit, I think. We absolutely flew out of the stadium and back home today, which is unusual.

Extras: I left the programme as usual – I’ll save that for the bigger games. I’d like to see more places to buy stuff like shirts, but maybe I just need to look a little closer.

Assorted asides: The ‘duo’ ticket system the FAI are insisting on for home tickets at the moment is being widely criticised and with good reason: they’d have sold a lot more tickets to this game if it didn’t also require buying tickets for Tuesday night against Switzerland (which are now on sale individually a late notice – also not ideal), a far less easy to attend game if you live outside fo the Dublin area. Daft, with huge spaces in the stadium that could have been filled and created a better atmosphere.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 3. Home wins: 1 Draws: 1 Away wins: 1

Goals: 11. Home goals: 6. Away goals: 5. Goals per game: 3.66



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