Ireland enter the post-Robbie Keane era with a tough trip to Serbia. Except, well, Ireland have been in the post-Keane era for a while now, haven’t they? Now they won’t feel obliged to keep picking him after he decided to officially retire. Martin O’Neill will be confident that his side can battle with a talented Serbia squad who lack experience.
Ireland have nine players with 35 caps or more in their squad (not including Keane, who will play his farewell international against Oman) while Serbia only have four. The home side have better players but they can’t work together as well as Ireland can. The Boys in Green showed that their greatest strength was their unity and spirit with all-or-nothing performances at the Euros against France and Italy. There were many positives to take from the tournament.
Nemanja Matic is suspended and Adem Ljajic is suspended for this fixture. Serbia should give a better account of themselves in this campaign than they did in the Euro qualifiers. But we think that Ireland will earn something over there in a closely-fought opener.