Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Beating the world champions, just saying it sounds special' - Martin O'Neill wants repeat of Germany performance

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during squad training at Versailles in Paris
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during squad training at Versailles in Paris

John Brennan

Martin O'Neill has called on his players to take inspiration from last October's win over Germany as they face into tomorrow's decisive Euro 2016 showdown with Italy.

Rather than recalling the famous win over the Azzurri in 1994, O'Neill noted that many of his players were babes in arms at the time and that they should draw inspiration from a much more recent famous victory.

"That was an extraordinary night, extraordinary," said the Kilrea man. "Beating the World Championship when we had to in order to go forward in the competition, beating the world champions, just saying it sounds special.

"The lads must take that performance, and the two against Bosnia in the play-offs, into this match. They can do it."

O'Neill used the words 'energy' and 'energetic' several times in his pre-match press conference, as he indicated that he would freshen the team up with some running power from lads who have yet to play in France.

Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Stephen Quinn and Daryl Murphy are among those whose names have been mentioned as having a chance of starting against the Azzurri who will begin the game with only two of the 11 players who started against Sweden last Friday.

When told of Italian manager Antonio Conte's plan, O'Neill added: "I'd do the very same in his position. If you can rest players and avoid yellow cards then you do."

The team had planned a walkaround at the Lille stadium after O'Neill's gig, having been asked by UEFA not to fully train on the pitch because it is in a bad way.

They cancelled that, but to say the pitch is in a bad way is an understatement. The surface is badly rutted with big divots evident. You hope it won't come to this, but it might.

Jon Walters didn't train with the Irish squad in Versailles today, which would seem to rule him out of a starting role for Ireland against Italy.

Martin O'Neill can include him on the subs bench without having to leave out any other player, so, despite his Achilles issue, Walters might well get 10 minutes at the end if Ireland are chasing the goal that would put them into the last 16.

With the completed Group A not likely to provide a best third and Group B certain to do so, it looks likely that if Ireland can produce the great escape in Lille against the Italians, they will be playing France in Lyon in the Round of 16 next Sunday afternoon at 2pm (Irish Time).

The alternative fixture for Ireland is a trip to Toulouse to face the Group D victors, Spain or Croatia, on Saturday night.

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