'The werewolf of Manchester': Martin O'Neill was in top form when describing Roy Keane
Martin O’Neill described Roy Keane as the “werewolf of Manchester”, joking that they’’ keep him “caged up” for the Belgian game in what was a light-hearted press conference - but promised Ireland will look to be as confident in attack as they were against Sweden.
The Irish manager also admitted that his squad will probably have to win a game in order to reach the last 16.
Asked by a Belgian journalist whether he and Keane have a “bad cop, worse cop” approach, O’Neill responded:
“I was wondering how long it might take before we'd get a question on Mr Keane. He's fine... we locked him up about 25 minutes ago. And I don't think we're going to allow him to come here. He's caged in at this minute as his beard gets longer, and uglier. But, he's good…”
O’Neill diverted the question to John O’Shea, who said “I agree… the beard’s getting longer”, before the manager again interjected “The werewolf of Manchester”.
Asked about Italy’s 1-0 win over Sweden and whether it helps Ireland, O’Neill merely said that the side were aware they would need to get three points out of one of the games.
“We were able to see the second half when we got off the plane and into the hotel, a late goal by Italy has obviously given them six points on the board, so I’m not exactly sure about the permutations at this minute, we will have enough of those tomorrow evening.
"We have to look at ourselves against Belgium. Whatever the outcome of tomorrow night's game, it looks as if we have to win a game now.”
O’Neill insisted, however, they would take encouragement from the performance in the 1-1 draw with Sweden.
“I think the way the team played, I think that they will draw great strength from that themselves... As important as anything is when we have possession of the ball is we play with the same sort of confidence as other evening
“That was the most pleasing thing, as we had a bit of assurance on the ball.”
O’Neill also played down the idea that reports of dispute in the Belgian camp would affect them.
“That I don't know, that I'm unaware of. No point in commenting. When you do get individuals as good as Belgium can be, if they don't win a game that they expected to - and i'm not saying that Italy [shouldn’t have beaten them]. Italy are a top-class ream, that one, not any of us in the room might have called… Whatever team we face tomorrow, we find out an hour or so beforehand - we'll be fully aware of the quality they have no matter what options they do choose. They have a good mix of physicality and skill, whatever combination they pick it's a quality combination. It’s something we have to be well prepared for.”