Football: `Special' Duff still nifty at fifty

TONIGHT WILL provide the appropriate tribute for what Brian Kerr, the Republic of Ireland manager, yesterday called a "special talent". Damien Duff, the nation's talisman, will earn his 50th cap against Portugal, the world's ninth-ranked country.

It is a measure of Kerr's work - and Duff's enormous contribution - that Fifa adjudicates that the Irish sit just three places below their opponents in those rankings. Duff will face two of his Chelsea team-mates - Tiago and Paulo Ferreira - and Kerr was quick to praise the progress Duff has made at Stamford Bridge.

"It was a huge challenge for him at Chelsea," Kerr said. "I remember when he went there he felt that it might be a little hard for him. But he has risen to that challenge and shown he has the mental strength and physical ability to survive as well as the technical ability."

His value to Chelsea, especially with Arjen Robben injured, has now rocketed beyond the pounds 17m they paid for him. When that deal was done, Blackburn Rovers privately warned that Chelsea would not get much more than 30 games a season out of Duff, such was his propensity to injury. The 25-year-old Irishman is proving that wrong, although his club manager Jose Mourinho will hope that he does not play the 90 minutes tonight.

Duff will want to. It is his way. "He's a top player," said Kerr, who first plucked the Dubliner as a 17-year-old to play in the Under-20 World Cup finals in Malaysia. His contribution since then has been immense. Kerr said: "His performances have been fantastic. He is prepared to do whatever is required for the team. He is a special talent and he looks like he is right on top of his game."

One frustration has been his lack of goals - just six - but the triumvirate that is emerging with Duff, Robbie Keane and Andy Reid is, Kerr declared, "some of the most exciting stuff we have seen for a long time". All three, he said, are "street-type" players - shrewd and tricky on the ball.

The Irish go into this match without Roy Keane and Stephen Carr but are protecting a record of just two defeats in 24 fixtures under Kerr. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was asked for a prediction. "A draw," he said. He's likely to be right.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (probable 4-4-2): Given (Newcastle United); Finnan (Liverpool), Cunningham (capt, Birmingham City), O'Brien (Newcastle), O'Shea (Manchester United); Duff (Chelsea), Holland (Charlton Athletic), Kilbane (Everton), Reid (Tottenham); Morrison (Birmingham), Keane (Tottenham).

PORTUGAL (4-2-1-2-1): Ricardo (Sporting Lisbon); Ferreira (Chelsea), Andrade (Deportivo La Coruna), Caneira (Valencia), Rogerio Matias (Vitoria); Petit (Benfica), Tiago (Chelsea); Deco (Barcelona); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Simao (Benfica); Pauleta (Paris St-Germain).

Referee: M Messias (England)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Senior Sales Executive - SaaS/ Cyber Security - £60,000

£32000 - £34000 per annum + Uncapped OTE £65,000 : h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Software-as-a-Service/ SaaS - £42,000

£28000 - £31000 per annum + Bonus + Progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you looki...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - SaaS/ Financial Software - £90,000

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Rapidly expandin...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

£31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game