Thursday 18 January 2018

Paul McGrath: 'If we play without fear, we have a great chance'

Paul McGrath
Paul McGrath
Paul McGrath. Photo: Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

Republic of Ireland legend Paul McGrath believes the Irish have a “great chance” of at least snatching a point from Belgium this afternoon.

“It will be a difficult game because Belgium didn’t show up for the first game against the Italians,” said the former Republic of Ireland star. “They are a collection of individuals rather than a team. I think one or two of their top players will be trying to prove something today. Most people would say they have a team of great players but are not functioning as team.

“I was a little bit shocked that they got beaten by Italy. They didn’t show up but I think they will today. We will have to show up, too.

Speaking on RTE on the 22nd anniversary of the Giants stadium victory against Italy in 1994 World Cup , McGrath said he hoped Republic would "play without fear".

“I would go into the Belgium game with the same sort of attitude as the Sweden game. Let’s go at them. Let’s be offensive and take the game to them. Let’s enjoy the game and enjoy the Euros.

He said he wasn’t too worried that the Belgium team played so badly against the Italians.

“We are in a tough group. You are going to have to face hard teams in a competition like this. Sweden was a good result but we could have perhaps gotten a better result. We didn’t get beaten. We have the next two games to get three points.

“We will go into the game to do our best – to get in their faces and stand up strong. Try and throw them out of their stride.”

McGrath also praised the approach taken by manager Martin O’Neill.

“I think he’s handled them [the players] very well. He has given them rest and let them off. I think that is what they needed. You can get pushed for so long but you need some time off, too.”

The whole nation is hoping that Wes is fully fit and ready today. But we have a ready replacement in Stephen Quinn who is a very similar player. Any of the lads who come in and do their best.

Wes Hoolahan and Jeff Hendrick were players who impressed McGrath in the Sweden game.

“Wes is Wes. Any team would have him in their side. Hendrick impressed me in the Sweden game. He’s not afraid of a tackle. He gets stuck in. He gets in your face and gets stuck in. Jon Walters is a big loss but I think we have enough cover. James McLean is another lad who is raring to go. We don’t have to be afraid of anyone. The thing to do is not to walk off the pitch with regret. If they all do that, I think we can pull a result out of this Belgium side."

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