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'Portugal coming to Dublin in November will be terrific' - Stephen Kenny sees Aviva date as World Cup turning point

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Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny hopes that Portugal's struggles at the Euro 2020 finals proves that his Republic of Ireland side will still have a say in the World Cup qualification bid which resumes in September with Ireland's trip to Portugal.

But the Irish boss admits that the loss at home to Luxembourg in the qualifiers was a "black mark" on his record as he demands a steady improvement from his side who finished off the season with a win over Andorra and a draw away to Hungary.

"We want to improve all the time, we have made mistakes, I have made mistakes, we are looking to continually improve," said Kenny.

"We should have beaten Bulgaria twice, the playoff against Slovakia, Qatar, we had several games that we should have won, so we managed to get that win, albeit against Andorra, with young players getting their first goals, that's good for confidence going forward," Kenny told 2FM's Game On show on Monday.

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Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture by Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture by Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture by Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

"The performance in Hungary, in front of a full house against a team going to the Euros, it was a decent performance, and we can build on that coming into the game against Portugal in September.

"Just because we've had it (first win) doesn't change that much, we need to improve as a team, we need to have a good window in September and then October, Portugal coming to Dublin in November will be terrific.

"We want to finish the campaign strongly, it's only two games in, a lot can change, there's nine points to play for in the next window, so we have to get as many points as we can and that has to be our ambition.

"We had a very disappointing performance at home to Luxembourg and that's a real black mark, there's no doubt about that and we are disappointed with that.

"But in the last camp, to score four goals against Andorra and draw in Hungary and see the emergence of Caoimhin Kelleher and Gavin Bazunu, they really look like top class prospects, or Dara O'Shea in his ninth international, coming in from the U21 team.

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"Josh Cullen, Jason Knight and Jayson Molumby have a lot of talent and a lot of energy, and will only get better we have an attacking three in Connoll, Idah and Parrott who still have it all to prove but they have a lot of potential and give us more options, I feel."

Kenny was en route to Budapest to watch Portugal play France on Wednesday and he says he will benefit from seeing their World Cup opponents in the flesh, questions being asked of Portugal after that loss to Germany last weekend, Kenny hopeful of a possible Irish win in Faro in September.

"It might sound naive when our record hasn't been as strong in recent times but you must approach every game like you can win it. Of course a draw away in Portugal is a good result but you must approach every game like you can win it you have to try and win games, it's interesting to see Portugal's goal kicks and how Germany had success with them," Kenny said.

"For me, I was thinking how will Bernardo Silva deal with that space? And he was subbed off at half time, it was good to see how Portugal dealt with, or didn't deal with, Germany on the day. Maybe Portugal are that sort of team when it's the last 16 and it's on the line, their match-winners really step up.

"Last week against Israel they won 4-0 and they were comfortable, very good, free-flowing, they weren't in the game the other night but I'd expect an improved performance against France.

"Portugal are the reigning European champions and the Nations League holders, but don't forget that in 2016 they just scraped out of their group, in third place, they have all their match winners - Ronaldo, Jota, Fernandes and Silva as their front four but they were thoroughly outplayed by Germany.

"It was a great game to be at, a very high technical standard from Germany and it was good for me, tactically, to see it. It was interesting to see Germany go up against Portugal with a 3-4-3 and they really caused them problems out wide, Kimmich and Gosens as wing backs were so high up the pitch and that caused Portugal no end of problems.

"Germany played with a 3-4-3 but France won't have that, they have a flat back four, and how Portugal react to that, you learn so much from watching the games live, more than you can see on TV and it's great to attend live games," added Kenny.


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