Thursday, June 20, 2024

John O’Shea’s Ireland ready to take “momentum” into Portugal test

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A 2-1 win at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night gave John O’Shea his first victory as Ireland interim manager, having held the post since February.

Not only did Troy Parrott’s injury time winner seal a landmark game for O’Shea, but it marked Ireland’s first win since an October 2023 4-0 triumph in Gibraltar

Even more remarkably, it was the first win for the Boys in Green against a side in the top 30 of the FIFA world rankings since a 2-1 friendly victory against USA in June 2018.

His players will need to be at the top of the game if they are to get anything in Aveiro on Tuesday night, with Portugal welcoming the Irish in the home side’s UEFA Euro 2024 send off.

  • The games players want to play in

Unlike Ireland, Portugal will be playing in Germany this summer. Whilst the Boys in Green were having one of their worst qualifying campaigns, Seleçaõ das Quinas had their best – winning all ten games, the only side in the entirety of Europe to do so. 

When Ireland last travelled to the Southern European nation, Stephen Kenny’s outfit were dreaming of a famous result leading 1-0 in the 88th minute after John Egan’s goal complimented a stunning penalty save, with Gavin Bazunu denying Cristiano Ronaldo from 12 yards.

Their daydreaming in the Algarve got out of hand though, as Ronaldo headed home twice to break green hearts.

O’Shea was reminded of this, a game that he was assistant manager for, and looked back on the striker’s two goals saying “You know how good he is in the air throughout his career and it’s something our defenders will have to be aware of. You have to get contact on him and stop him from getting that leap. He’s obviously been able to adapt his game – the more experienced he has got, it’s that movement whether he’s waiting offside and just spins back around. 

“Our players will be fully aware that it’ll be a good challenge for them but these are the type of games, the players that you want to be playing against, you can test yourself against the best and the Portuguese squad will be one of the best at this Euros, I’d say.

  • The importance of substitutes in these games

The 2-1 win over Hungary in Dublin last week saw two impressive substitute performances from Troy Parrott, with the Excelsior striker scoring the winner, and debutant Jake O’Brien, after a season of impressing for Lyon in Ligue 1.

The interim manager heaped praise on his substitutes from last Tuesday, and made it clear that more of the same would be needed in what would be a completely different game.

It’s what we want from the team,” he said. “I mentioned about the stage of the season that it is for the players and obviously it’ll be a little bit warmer in the stadium than it was in Dublin the other evening and we saw how we needed the players to come on and impact the game and it’ll be the same again tomorrow whatever team is selected.

It’s going to be important that the people who are coming on are finishing the game strong like the other night and we got our reward from it. That’s the key message, it’s obviously a different test again but we have to hopefully take some momentum that we got against Hungary into the Portugal game – it’s a totally different test, and Portugal have even evolved over the last couple of years since we last played them too.

  • Ronaldo’s relationship with O’Shea

An unlikely crossover, Manchester United academy graduate O’Shea played for the Red Devils in every season that Ronaldo did in his initial spell – spreading six years.

He reminisced on his time spent with one of the world’s best and praised his former teammate, saying “Hopefully he’s resting! He might need a week’s rest before the Euros! He’s obviously an amazing footballer, still is, the records he’s setting and the goals he’s scoring, his dedication and professionalism – he’s getting his just rewards for that. You see what he’s done for Portugal too, the tournaments they’ve won and been involved in, he’s been involved in a huge part in those.

As a teammate, it was brilliant because of the character he was in the dressing room to the relationship he had with everybody. It was superb to see him develop (at Manchester United) because the player that arrived and the player that left – you could see the difference.

Very good, he’s a very very very special player and it was great to be a teammate of his for so many years and play alongside him. Some great memories and hopefully if he is selected, we can keep him quiet.

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