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Belgium are a serious force, says Martin O'Neill

By Damien Spellmen

Published 16/06/2016

Wary: Martin O’Neill expects a stern test for the Republic on Saturday
Wary: Martin O’Neill expects a stern test for the Republic on Saturday

Martin O'Neill has warned his Republic of Ireland team they will face the best group of players at Euro 2016 on Saturday as they try to force their way into the knock-out stages.

Belgium, who boast a wealth of individual talent including Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, went down 2-0 to Italy just after the Republic had drawn with Sweden on Monday and, as a result, their need is pressing and O'Neill has no doubts about what lies ahead for his men.

He said: "I think they are possibly the most talented set of individual players at the tournament, that would be my view of them.

"Little Hazard is one of the best players playing in the world at this minute. They've got talent and players playing big, big matches every single week at club level so we have to cope with that.

"I think they are very, very dangerous. The Italian game was obviously going to be difficult anyway. They had three or four chances in the game to score, didn't take them.

"It will be a tough night for us. We want to try to make it as tough for them as well."

The Republic will arrive in Bordeaux buoyed by the quality of their performance against the Swedes after they took the game by the scruff of the neck and led deservedly through Wes Hoolahan's strike before a Ciaran Clark own goal cost them two precious points.

Victory in either of their two remaining Group E fixtures would give them every chance of qualifying for the last 16 and while that may be easier said than done, that will be their approach as they prepare for Saturday's showdown.

O'Neill said: "When the group was announced, I think that Belgium finishing any worse than second is not something that they would have contemplated, so they will be coming out all guns blazing."

Belfast Telegraph

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