Martin O'Neill on what Ireland need to do to emulate Croatia's World Cup heroics
Martin O'Neill says the main lesson that Ireland can take from Croatia's success at the World Cup is the value of getting players to top clubs.
O'Neill was hugely impressed by Croatia's performance in Russia and Zlatko Dalic was his pick for manager of the tournament. With a population of just 4.1 million, their charge to the final - where they lost to France - was cited as inspirational for smaller nations such as Ireland. But O'Neill feels that the most relevant aspect of their exploits was the profile of the players in their dressing room
"Ivan Rakitic has won a Champions League medal, Luka Modric has won four," he said. "It's psychologically and physically easier in the bigger international games and you've just come off playing a Champions League game or a top-of-the-table clash in the Premier League or in Spain or Italy. It doesn't half give you a boost.
"We want to see a scenario where we have a number of players in the Premier League. That's a target that younger players should be setting themselves."
In an exclusive interview with today's Irish Independent, O'Neill said that the performances of Ireland's U-17 team at the European Championships in May had given him hope for the future.
But he acknowledged that it might be the next manager that benefits from that.
"They could have won the U-17 championships," said O'Neill, referring to the controversial penalty shoot-out defeat to a Holland side that went on to lift the trophy.
"It was nice to see them do well, and it should give the younger players the incentive to drive on and play at the highest level in club football - and that can only benefit the international team."
O'Neill name-checked Troy Parrott, one of the stars of that U-17 side, who yesterday signed his first full-time contract with Tottenham.