'You should enjoy the bigger games' - Evan Ferguson relishing France test after first Ireland goal
GOAL hero Evan Ferguson says he hopes he has done enough to win a place in the Ireland side to face France on Monday after he marked his full debut with a goal.
Ferguson scored to put Ireland 2-0 up at home to Latvia and though the away side came back to level the scores to 2-2 at half time, a second-half goal from sub Chiedozie Ogebene won the day to tee up Monday's qualifier at home to France.
"Hopefully, we will see, it's his choice, he has to pick whoever he thinks is right," Ferguson told RTE when asked if he could feature against the French and get the nod from Stephen Kenny.
"It's all just talk, people getting excited but it doesn't bother me, it's just a game of football. They are the bigger games, you should enjoy the bigger games, we will see where we are at as individuals against World Cup winners," he said, proud of his goal.
"For me, there is no other feeling, playing at home and getting a goal. I felt comfortable, it's similar to what I did with Brighton, I am comfortable with it.
"It's gone so quick, there are no breaks or time to sit back and think about what I am doing, it's week to week and trying to concentrate on the next game."
The teenager said he shrugged off any nerves to adapt quickly. "It was an unbelievable feeling, yesterday being told that I was getting a start, I was just trying to get in, get the tactics right, get myself prepared for the game," he said.
"As a striker it's on my mind to get a goal, so it was nice to get the goal. We did well, we played well in the first 20 minutes and the first half in general, we were unlucky to go in at 2-2, that was disappointing. For the goal it was more instinct, try to stay alive and the ball bounces for you."
Ireland 2-0 Latvia:— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 22, 2023
A first senior international goal for 18-year-old Evan Ferguson
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Meanwhile, man of the match Will Smallbone admitted that Ireland need to do better in defence for Monday's test at home to World Cup finalists France.
The midfielder, making his debut, was one of the main performers for Ireland in front of 41,211 fans, but Smallbone accepts that the defending against Latvia cannot be repeated against the French.
"The first goal was a great goal but a bit of a sucker punch, I thought we were playing well and unlucky not to be 3-1 up, but the second one we are disappointed with, to get done on a set play, maybe it took a deflection but we need to be better at those," Smallbone told RTE after the game where he was named as man of the match.
"The most important thing was to come back out strong for the second half, which we did."
It was a huge night for Smallbone, who qualifies through his Kilkenny-born mother, having come back from serious injury.
"This was what I always dreamed of, playing for Ireland through the age groups, to get to this day, to play well, get a win and win the man of the match makes it even better. I am very proud of myself, to get to here," he said.
"It was a great day, from being told I was playing, to play and to get the win makes it even better. I thought the first 20 minutes we were good, we played some good football and we were disappointed to go in at 2-2."
Smallbone will hope he has done enough to force his way further into Kenny's plans for Monday's test with France.
"Hopefully, I want to play, Stephen will make the right decision and I will be happy if I am needed in the team or off the bench."