Ireland manager aims to bounce back from March hell
Stephen Kenny says that his Ireland players must believe that a special period in their evolution is around the corner.
And he wants the challenge of taking on a star-studded Portugal side led by world record-chasing Cristiano Ronaldo to accelerate that mission.
Kenny needs a strong autumn after a nightmare March defeat to Luxembourg exacerbated the pain of an opening reverse to Serbia.
It has all but ended hopes of World Cup qualification, but Kenny wants his young group to plot a path towards a brighter future by embracing the Portuguese challenge head on.
Manchester United recruit Ronaldo is seeking a 110th international goal, an achievement that would put him on his own at the top of the all-time charts.
Kenny has promised that Ireland will not defend for 90 minutes in an attempt to escape with a result, even though he accepts they will come under pressure for periods.
“Luxembourg was a disappointing performance and result and we have to bounce back from that very, very strong, starting with Portugal, which is a big challenge for us.
“We know they are a phenomenal football nation who have a phenomenal history in recent times, so we got to create our own history over the next while and it is our intention to try and do that,” said Kenny.
“Hopefully we can have a really good performance. I’m sure with the Portuguese quality they’ll force us to defend at times, and we acknowledge that. It’s not our intention to be set up in a defensive way.”
Ireland skipper Séamus Coleman has stressed that the team is in better shape following a prolonged summer gathering which was uneventful off the pitch and encouraging on it with a scoreless draw in Hungary finishing it off.
“We played better, we had more time together as a group and we came away from the summer games quite happy,” said Coleman.
“We understand we are underdogs and we may have to dig in at different times but we have come together as a group and the summer was a big part of that.”
Just 7,865 fans will be present in the 30,305-capacity Estadio Algarve due to local Covid restrictions.
Any Irish fans who have travelled to Portugal will not be admitted to the stadium on account of UEFA rules.