Sport European Championships

Monday 20 November 2017

Lille bit of magic is all it takes to become 'heroes' - Coleman

Seamus Coleman, pictured during training in Versailles yesterday, is taking confidence from Ireland’s win over Germany during the qualifying campaign. Photo: PA
Seamus Coleman, pictured during training in Versailles yesterday, is taking confidence from Ireland’s win over Germany during the qualifying campaign. Photo: PA
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Big pressure, high stakes, bruised pride, a terrible playing surface, but a "big result" within reach.

That's how the stage is set for Ireland here in Lille this evening, not quite winner-takes-all as Italy are already into the last 16 but where an Irish win will take Martin O'Neill's men into the knockout stage of the European Championship finals for the first time.

Seamus Coleman, too young to really recall the moment when Ireland shocked Italy with a 1-0 win at the 1994 World Cup, only knows of that moment from second-hand stories and the history books, but the defender feels that the current crop of players in green have the ability to conjure up a big win this evening.

"We don't have to look too far back," says Coleman, prompting a recall of last year's win over Germany in Dublin, when he had been asked if that '94 defeat of an Italy side (who did recover well enough to go all the way to the World Cup final) could inspire the current generation.

"That night in Dublin with Shane Long's goal was a memorable night for us all, we know that when it all clicks for us, if we stick together for the 90 minutes and we don't lose concentration, we are capable of beating big teams. I do genuinely believe that there is a big result left in us in this group."

The 'group' is an important word there as Martin O'Neill is likely to make changes, at least four, to the XI for tonight's game, though Coleman is one of the players guaranteed to keep his place.

"Whatever players the manager picks to go out there and put in the hard graft for 90 minutes, the rest will come. But it's definitely an opportunity and the whole squad believes we can get four points out of this group," says Coleman, keen for someone else to come up with a moment like Ray Houghton's goal in 1994.

"If you look back over the years, you have seen players making a name for themselves and becoming heroes among the Irish fans, it's something that you dream about. That's the end game and hopefully that will be the case."

The awful state of the pitch here in Lille gave the Irish players something to talk about when the arrived from their Versailles base, though you get the sense that they'd rather discuss any topic other than the loss to Belgium last weekend.

Roy Keane spoke earlier this week about the need to learn lessons from the defeat while also not being bogged down by baggage, but Coleman's keen to forget Bordeaux.

"We were massively disappointed after the Belgium game, don't get me wrong," he says.

"We got beaten 3-0 and something we pride ourselves on his how compact we are, they broke away on us a few times but as soon as that game was over, we'd got beat, there wasn't much we could do about it.

"We knew we had a big task ahead of us so we had to forget about it as quickly as possible.

"Obviously go over things that we done wrong but we had too big of a job to dwell on it, and no better way to fix it than to play a game of football against Italy," Coleman added.

Irish Independent

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