On Saturday 27 March 2021, Luxembourg played their opening FIFA World Cup 2022 European Group A qualifying match away to the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Last Wednesday, Ireland (#42 in FIFA rankings) opened their qualifying campaign with a 3-2 defeat away to Serbia; that same day, Luxembourg (ranked #98) played a friendly match away to World Cup hosts, Qatar, but failed to score in the 1-0 loss. Ireland made three changes from that match, including giving a first senior start to 19 year-old Gavin Bazunu in goal.
Played in windy conditions with rain falling, and with a temperature of 11C, the match saw Luxembourg's Red Devils in all red, with Ireland in green tops and white shorts.
Following tentative opening exchanges, Luxembourg's goalkeeper Morris made a brave point-blank save against Ireland's Collins in the 18th minute. And just 3 minutes before half-time, Luxembourg's Rodriguez ran onto a through ball and tried to lob the Irish keeper, but Bazunu managed to reach the shot with a terrific acrobatic save which meant that the teams went into half-time 0-0. The young Irish team had more possession and territory and, at times, had played some attractive one-touch football, but their lack of firepower up front, as well as some poor crosses, meant that they posed little threat to the visitors' goal. But Luxembourg, when they did manage to get the ball, mostly in breaks from their own half, also showed glimpses of what they could be capable, and had forced a couple of corners in the first 45 minutes.
At the start of the second half, Robbie Brady replaced Matt Doherty for Ireland. In the 52nd minute, Stevens of Ireland and Sinani of Luxembourg were both booked for a tussle. Just three minutes later, Ireland's Bwowne (who scored with a header against Serbia on Wednesday) got onto a superb Brady cross, but his header was just wide. Luxembourg's captain, Laurent Jans, picked up a yellow card in the 58th minute for a rash challenge. Then with just under half an hour to play, Luxembourg's Vincent Thill and his brother Olivier Thill forced two good saves by Bazanu within a minute of each other just a short sustained period of pressure by the visitors.
This was just after Ireland's manager, Stephen Kenny, had taken off central defender Ciaran Clark and brought on James Maclean to try to give Ireland a more attacking edge. By now Luxembourg were passing the ball better between teammates and were probing Ireland's defence. Ireland then found a way through the visitors' defence, but Robinson shot high when through on goal with only the keeper to beat. In the 69th minute, Daniel Sinani tried a long-range shot but it was wide of the Ireland goal. Just a minute later, Ireland's Collins was just off target with a spectacular overhead kick.
Ireland were starting to exert some pressure on the visitors. With 18 minutes left on the clock, Ireland made another substitution, with Shane Long replacing Calim Ronson, in an attempt to provide sharper firepower up front. With a minute, he got onto a cross from Brady, but there was no power in his header. Deville then replaced Vincent Thill for Luxembourg with just 11 minutes remaining and the match still scoreless. Luxembourg's defence was remaining solid amid increasing pressure. Against the flow of play, however, Luxembourg got the ball forward with a low shot by Rodriguez from outside the box defeating an outstretched Bazunu. Soon after, Long headed over following Ireland's first corner of the second half. Jason Molumby (midfielder) and Troy Parrot (striker) then joined the fray, replacing Cullen and Collins respectively.
Just just a couple of minutes left on the clock, Ireland piled forward but to no avail. Moris punched the ball away following a driving cross into the visitors' box. Luxembourg came away from Dublin with a rather fortunate 1-0 win, with a goal from Rodrigues, who was the only player on the pitch playing champions League football this season, with Dynamo Kyiv. This result, while giving Luxembourg a dream start for World Cup qualification, was Ireland's 11th consecutive defeat.
Elsewhere in the same group, Serbia cam back from 2-0 down to Portugal to draw 2-2 aft home, to follow up from Portugal's 1-0 win over Azerbaijan last Wednesday evening, to lead the group with 6 points. Portugal and Serbia lead the group on 4 points each, with Luxembourg in 3rd on 3 points.
IRELAND: Gavin Bazunu; Séamus Coleman, Dara O'Shea, Ciarán Clark; Matt Doherty, Josh Cullen, Jason Knight, Alan Browne, Enda Stevens; Callum Robinson, James Collins.
LUXEMBOURG: Anthony Moris; Maxime Chanot, Enes Mahmutovic, Christopher Martins, Danel Sinani, Gerson Rodrigues, Vincent Thill, Olivier Thill, Leandro Barreiro, Laurent Jans (capt), Marvin Martins.