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O'Neill's men give him belief that they will compete on the big stage

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Netherlands

By Damian Spellman

Published 28/05/2016

Long night: Shane Long wheels away in celebration after putting the Republic of Ireland in front in their pre-Euro 2016 friendly with Holland at the Aviva Stadium
Long night: Shane Long wheels away in celebration after putting the Republic of Ireland in front in their pre-Euro 2016 friendly with Holland at the Aviva Stadium

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has told his players that they have to believe they can compete with the best if they are to prosper at next month’s Euro 2016 finals.

The Republic were pegged back to draw 1-1 with Holland in their penultimate warm-up game in Dublin, but having beaten world champions Germany during qualification, O’Neill insists they have cause for optimism as they prepare to face Sweden, Belgium and Italy.

Under previous boss Giovanni Trapattoni the Republic flopped at Euro 2012, losing all three games against Croatia, Spain and Italy, scoring only one goal and putting up little fight in going down 4-0 to the Spanish, who went on to win the tournament.

O’Neill is confident that there will be no repeat of such a tame surrender when they go to France.

He said: “It’s not a case of whether we can, we just have to, we have to.

“It has to be our mindset, it has to be that, that we have to go into those games thinking that we can compete. Otherwise we might as well stay at home.

“I know it doesn’t last forever, but if you can’t take some self-confidence and self-belief out of beating Germany, I don’t think you are ever going to be able to do it.

“I genuinely believe that result, even though we played a couple of days later against Poland, I actually think that result set us up for the two games against Bosnia.

“We have qualified now. Qualification was great, but it happened in November.

“Let us go again, and we have to do it. I can’t predict anything out there other than putting heart and soul into the games.

“You could see out there tonight quality in the Dutch side. They haven’t made it, but that’s a surprise to everyone in Europe that they didn’t make it, but they do have quality players, so we have to find a way to try to beat that.

“And we have one or two very decent players ourselves who really probably have to play at their optimum for us to make an impact, but we can do it.”

The Republic came within five minutes of victory courtesy of Shane Long’s first-half strike after he pounced on the loose ball when Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen could only parry John O’Shea’s header.

They might have added to their tally after the break, but  they did not and that left the door open for the Dutch to pull level on a night when they enjoyed more than their fair share of possession with substitute Luke de Jong heading home an 85th-minute equaliser.

O’Neill said: “I was very pleased. I thought we did fine.

“I thought we started off not too badly. The Dutch had good possession of the ball, which was actually very good for us because we had to play without it for a little while and I thought that might happen.

“Then we scored the goal, which obviously gave us a big lift. I thought we played fine, we kept possession of the ball reasonably well after that.

“Half-time arrived and probably on reflection we just about deserved to be in front, perhaps.

“Second half, it was roughly the same sort of pattern again. I was disappointed we conceded, but overall, I was very pleased with it.”

Holland boss Danny Blind was disappointed with his side’s display in the first 60 minutes of the game, but was quick to defend Manchester United’s Memphis Depay, who was substituted with half an hour remaining after an insipid display.

He said: “It’s a difficult time for Memphis because he didn’t have a good season at Manchester United.

“It’s a question of confidence, it’s a question of rhythm and not playing too many games.

“Okay. He’s a good player, he has talent.

“I know his situation and I hope that next season, he can show us the things he showed us before at PSV Eindhoven, but at this moment, it’s a difficult time for him.”

Online Editors

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