‘The main focus is to beat France’ – Chiedozie Ogbene says Ireland are preparing for major upset

Ireland's Chiedozie Ogbene celebrates scoring his side's third goal against Latvia. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Sean O'Connor

Ireland forward Chiedozie Ogbene knows the France squad is littered with world-class players, but insists they are focused on winning Monday’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier.

Les Blues came a penalty shoot-out away from winning back-to-back World Cups last December, and began this campaign with an impressive 4-0 win over the Netherlands in Paris on Friday night, with new captain Kylian Mbappe bagging a brace.

While Ogbene is aware of the deadly threats they possess, he says Ireland have their sights set on three points in the sold-out Aviva Stadium clash.

“The main focus on Monday is to win, that’s the way we are training and that’s the mentality we have,” said Ogbene, who came off the bench to net his fourth international goal in Wednesday’s 3-2 friendly win over Latvia.

“If you’re not confident there’s no point in showing up. We know what kind of quality France possess, but the agenda is to win the game. You have to be confident. We are preparing to win the game.

“We’re not going out there to try and stay in the game or draw, we are preparing to win. When you have that mentality, you never know what can happen. You know how football can be, it’s unpredictable.”

While Ogbene hopes to win his 15th cap on Monday, 18-year-old Evan Ferguson made his first senior start in Wednesday’s win and marked it with his first international goal. Ogbene lauded the in-form Brighton striker, and believes he plays like someone who has far more than three caps to his name.

“Evan is a fantastic player, he plays like a player who already has many caps under his belt,” added Ogbene, who has hit eight goals for Rotherham so far this term.

“He’s very mature. For an 18-year old, his hold-up play is very good and he’s physically strong. As a number 9, if your hold-up play is good it allows your wingers and the number 10 to make runs and that’s something he does very well. It helps the team massively.

“He has an eye for goal. You can see he’s in the box every time. That physical presence will attract defenders towards him and maybe leave space for me at the back post.

“This game on Monday is to win, whatever gameplan we set up. In my opinion, no one has merited a start, everything is up for grabs. I’m sure if the gaffer picks a team, the players should understand it is primarily to win the game.”

Twelve months ago the Cork native was plying his trade in League One, before winning promotion to the Championship with Rotherham. When asked about going from League One to facing the two-time World Cup winners, Ogbene says one must enjoy these moments when they come around.

“Honestly it is unbelievable, football is unpredictable and you have to take every day as it comes,” said the 25-year-old.

“When I come out here I try my best, and I live in the moment. Last year we were in League One. It comes very quickly and by the time you realise, you'll be retiring anytime soon. It has been an unbelievable journey and I hope I can continue and push for higher heights.

“It is a big game for the country. I’m very passionate and really want us to get the result on Monday. There are some butterflies and nerves there, but that's a good sign obviously. I care about the game. The dream is to get to Germany, that's what’s at stake.”