Republic need big result now, says Martin
Undetered Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill will this morning hope for a positive update on the fitness of injury-hit Jonathan Walters as a pick-me-up from the disappointment of a Euro 2016 1-1 draw with Sweden.
O'Neill admitted that his dressing-room in the Stade de France was a deflated place after a 71st-minute own goal from Ciaran Clark cancelled out Wes Hoolahan's magnificent opener in a game that the Republic deserved to win.
O'Neill later conceded it means his side must produce a big result against either Belgium or Italy if they are to qualify for the next phase. The Belgians have a point to prove against the Republic in Bordeaux on Saturday after they suffered a surprise 2-0 loss to the Italians in Lyon last night.
O’Neill could do with Walters’ workrate for Saturday’s mission against Belgium, but says he is worried about the pre-match injury doubt as the 32-year-old struggled to sprint during his hour on the pitch.
“Jon’s not great,” he said. “I’m concerned about him.”
Walters acknowledged that he needed the injury to settle down if he is to make the Belgian encounter.
The Republic boss accepted that his team needed to summon the strength that saw them deliver the win over Germany which helped them to France in the first place
He did, hover, take some heart from a dominant first-half showing.
“They are very, very tough games, but while we have desire and a never-say-die attitude, I thought our players looked accomplished,” he said.
“We should have three points.”
Goalscorer Hoolahan was equally confident that there is hope for the Republic of Ireland despite their understandable disappointment on the night.
He said: “It was a good performance and we’ll look forward to playing Belgium on Saturday. Obviously they got the equaliser and it was a bit disappointing, but overall we are proud of our performance.”
Sweden boss Erik Hamren was less than impressed with what he saw before the second-half flurry which eventually spared his side’s blushes.
He said: “The feeling right now is disappointment more than being satisfied with a draw despite coming back (from a losing position).
“We have to give 300 per cent in the next games if we are going to go through.
“It’s good that we didn’t lose, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t play at the level we’re able to do in the first 50 minutes.”
However, Hamren absolved star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a poor first 50 minutes.
He said: “To be a forward you need support. Our attacking play wasn’t really good. The first 50 minutes, our forwards didn’t have much to work with.
“As a team, we got better after the first 50 minutes, so they had some opportunities and he was also involved in the goal that we scored.”