Robbie Brady backs Republic of Ireland to make Euro 2016 knockout stages
Robbie Brady has backed the Republic of Ireland to make the knockout stages of Euro 2016 despite seeing their hopes of an opening night victory dashed.
Monday night's 1-1 draw with Sweden at the Stade de France handed Ireland a point - one more than they managed from three games at Euro 2012 in Poland - but it could have been so much more with Martin O'Neill's men threatening to run away with the game before succumbing to a second-half fightback.
They now face the task of collecting the points they will need from Belgium in Bordeaux and Italy in Lille if they are to emerge from Group E and on the evidence of their performance in Saint Denis, Brady is confident they can do it.
Asked if they could win at least one of their remaining group games, he said: "Yes, 100 per cent, especially the way we played today in the first half pushing forward.
"If we finish a couple more of them off in the next couple of games...We've shown that we can hurt teams. I'm really looking forward to the next two and I've got really good feelings that we can out of this group."
For 50 minutes, the Republic pinned Sweden back to the extent that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man earmarked as the greatest threat to their hopes of an opening night victory, was largely becalmed.
After the excellent Jeff Hendrick had both forced a save from keeper Andreas Isaksson and hit the crossbar, Wes Hoolahan produced a finish of genuine quality to convert Seamus Coleman's cross and Ireland were up and running.
To their credit, Sweden responded and eventually forced their way back into the game when the unfortunate Ciaran Clark headed Ibrahimovic's 71st-minute cross into his own net, but Coleman believes he and his team-mates have put down a marker ahead of their forthcoming fixtures.
He said: "I wouldn't say it felt like a defeat. It's a point on the board, but it's disappointing all the same not to see it out. We were quite dominant for a lot of the game and had a lot chances, but we didn't get three points.
"But it's a point of the board and we go into Saturday's game now and we know that we're a hard team to beat and not many teams will like playing us. We'll be looking for three points in the next couple of games."
If O'Neill's team proved collectively that it can more than compete at this level, 34-year-old Hoolahan underlined his ability to mix it with the best in a performance which once again raised questions over former boss Giovanni Trapattoni's mistrust of his talent.
The Norwich midfielder was making just the 31st appearance of his senior international career, and that remains a mystery even to his team-mates.
Brady said: "It's a shame for football, a shame for Irish football especially that he did miss that much time and people didn't get to see him for more time.
"But he's here now, so people just need to tune in and catch the best of him because he's still a top-class player. He's a class act and I'm over the moon for him.
"He was excellent, which he always is. He's one of these lads that you think might get caught on the ball sometimes and he just manages to come out with something to get himself out of it.
"He's a joy to play with and it's a joy to watch him play. All credit to him."