Didi Hamann backs James McCarthy to star for Ireland at the Euros
Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30
Former Germany and Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann has backed James McCarthy to overcome his critics and star at next month's Euros.
McCarthy has come in for some criticism for his performances for Ireland but Hamann believes that he can be a leading light for Martin O'Neill's side.
The 25-year-old impressed for Everton on Sunday and scored the kind of goal that Irish supporters have yet to see in a green jersey.
Hamann however insists that some of the criticism that has been aimed at McCarthy has been unfair and he expects him to play a key role for Ireland in France.
"I've been a big fan of his since I saw him at Wigan a few years ago," Hamann said. "I know he comes in for a bit of stick that people say that he doesn't do it enough for Ireland, which he does for Everton.
"I think his all-round game is very good. He's got very good passing ability, a good touch and he can win a ball.
"He's a very important player for Ireland and Everton because he gives teams very good balance. He's defensively sound and can contribute going forward.
"Every tournament is a big one because you don't know how often you'll get to play in them with Ireland. There's no guarantee they'll qualify for the World Cup so I think he's got high hopes."
The change in the format of the tournament means that there is arguably less pressure on the opening game against Sweden but with Belgium and Italy lying in wait, Ireland need a positive result against the Swedes.
However, Hamann, who was a World Cup runner-up in 2002, warned that there is a danger in placing too much emphasis on the opening game - as was the case against Croatia in Poland in 2012.
"What's different this time is that maybe the expectation is a bit lower," he said. "Four years ago, people expected them to give it a good shot and maybe get to the last 16.
"I think that's changed a bit now because they had to go through the play-offs. The win against Germany will obviously give them a lot of confidence but I still think four years ago, there was more expectation - people expected more than they do now.
"I think it's a bit easier and that's why Ireland are a more dangerous side than they were four years ago.
"There is a shift in that the fear that the smaller nations have towards the bigger ones, that probably harms their chances of success, maybe that's diminished and we'll see more upsets." Didi Hamann is guest on RTE 2FM's 'Game On' panel that will broadcast live from Dublin, Galway and Cork on May 30