Euro 2012: Six other players with League of Ireland 'experience'
While six players with League of Ireland backgrounds recently made it into Giovanni Trapattoni's 23-man squad for Euro 2012, as many as 20 players from other nations' squads have lined out in European club fixtures at League of Ireland venues. With several (Giorgio Chiellini, Jermain Defoe etc.) requiring little or no introduction, we look at a few of the players who may not be quite as well recognised.
Tobias Hysén (Sweden)
Cork City v Djurgårdens IF (Turner's Cross, 2005)
Likely to act as back up to Sweden's main strikers during Euro 2012, this son of former Liverpool centre-half Glenn played for Djurgårdens in their 2005-06 U.E.F.A. Cup clash with City, a tie that eventually saw Damien Richardson's charges progressing on the away goals rule. Hysén's career path subsequently led to him spending a season in the Championship with Roy Keane's Sunderland, before returning to his homeland to join IFK Gothenburg, where he has played since 2007. Since making his debut against South Korea in 2005, Hysén has gradually racked up a total of seven goals from 21 international appearances, including one goal from two appearances during the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Oleksandr Aliyev (Ukraine)
Drogheda United v Dynamo Kiev (Dalymount Park, 2008)
Along with three other current Ukrainian internationals (Oleksandr Shovkovskyi, Taras Mykhalyk and Artem Milevskyi), Oleksandr Aliyev featured for Dynamo Kiev against Paul Doolin's Drogheda United in the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League. Considered to possess one of the fiercest shots in European football, the midfielder had blasted home an 86th minute winner at Dalymount Park in the first leg, and opened the scoring in the thrilling second leg at the Lobanovskyi Stadium, a match where just the width of a post prevented Drogheda from progressing.
Having already gained a measure of fame thanks to a fantastic 40-yard free-kick in an u-21 international against Turkey, Aliyev was handed a first senior international cap in September 2008 (just a few weeks after Kiev had disposed of the League of Ireland champions), and has now made a total of 25 appearances for his country, scoring six goals.
Ognjen Vukojevi? (Croatia)
Drogheda United v Dynamo Kiev (Dalymount Park, 2008)
Croatian international Ognjen Vukojevi?, who plays as a defensive midfielder, also lined out for Kiev against Drogheda in 2008, having joined from Dinamo Zagreb for a fee of €6m just a few weeks previously. Having now just finished his fourth season with the Ukrainian giants, Vukojevi? has a total of 37 international caps, scoring three goals, including one just two minutes into his debut against Slovakia in 2007. While the 28-year old isn't always an automatic first choice for Slaven Bilic's side, he did make seven appearances during the qualifiers, and is considered as being highly likely to start against Ireland in Poznan on the 10th of June.
Roman Shishkin (Russia)
St. Patrick's Athletic v Krylia Sovetov (Richmond Park, 2009)
Roman Shishkin played in both legs for Krylia Sovetov as they suffered an away goals defeat to St. Patrick's Athletic in the 2009-10 Europa League. The versatile right-back wasn't officially a Krylia player at the time, having been on loan from Spartak Moscow, the club with whom he won his first international cap in 2007. However, it has only been since a transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow in 2010 that Shishkin's career has started to gain real momentum, and having played the full 90 minutes in two of Russia's qualifying matches, the defender now looks set to be named in Dick Advocaat's squad for Euro 2012.
Yevhen Selin (Ukraine)
Sligo Rovers v Vorskla Poltava (Showgrounds, 2011)
The visit of Vorskla Poltava to Sligo Rovers during the 2011-12 Europa League qualifiers caused one or two (perhaps welcome) problems for the Bit o' Red, with the Showgrounds only being declared suitable to host the fixture after a UEFA inspection and an intervention by John Delaney. The match itself was a disappointment for the 3,700 fans present, however, with Vorskla scoring two first half goals to end Sligo's European adventure. Among the visitors' line-up was left-back Yevhen Selin, who has since broken into the Ukrainian national team.
Selin scored on his international debut in a friendly with Bulgaria last October, and is being tipped to feature in the starting eleven for the Euro 2012 co-hosts in their opening match against Sweden.
Giorgos Fotakis (Greece)
Shamrock Rovers v P.A.O.K. (Tallaght Stadium, 2011)
While the visit of star-studded sides like Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur in the last year or two generated a lot of publicity, slightly less fuss greeted the appearance of Greek side PAOK for their Europa League match with Michael O'Neill's Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium last November. With as many as six Greek internationals currently in their ranks, the club now look set to provide four members of the Greek Euro 2012 squad, all four of whom appeared in that 3-1 victory over the Hoops.
While two-goal striker Dimitrios Salpingidis (who scored Greece's first ever goal at a World Cup finals against Nigeria in 2010) is probably the best-known of the group, the other scorer on the night, attacking midfielder Giorgos Fotakis, also has the potential to grab a headline or two at this summer's tournament.
Somewhat unusually for a player in and around the Greek starting line-up, he has never spent time at any of the country's “big three” clubs (Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, A.E.K. Athens), and only earned a first international call-up in 2009, just a few weeks short of his 28th birthday. Since then, Fotakis has scored two goals from 9 appearances (including a brilliant 30-yard equaliser against Georgia during the Greeks' last qualifying match), and if the PAOK player doesn't start Greece's first match against co-hosts Poland, then he is likely to be introduced as a second-half substitute to offer some fresh attacking impetus.