Belfast Telegraph

All the pressure is on Swiss shoulders, insists McCarthy

Switzerland v Rep of Ireland, Euro 2020 Qualifying Group D: Stade de Genève, Tonight, 7.45pm

Big call: Aaron Connolly in training
Big call: Aaron Connolly in training
Boss Mick McCarthy

By Damien Spellman

Mick McCarthy has admitted the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifier in Geneva is do-or-die - but only for Switzerland.

The Republic would book their place at next summer's finals with victory at the Stade de Geneva, while the Swiss, who are ranked 11th in the world - the Irish are 28th - would effectively have to rely upon the play-offs.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic has urged his team, who lost 1-0 in Denmark on Saturday, to treat the game as a cup final, but McCarthy insists that is not the case for the visitors.

He said: "Everybody wants to make it a cup final, a do-or-die, and I don't think it is. I think it is for them. They do have to beat us. That's not the case with us, is it? We get a draw and we've still got Denmark to play.

"And I have to say, when I look back at the game against Switzerland, I can't think for one minute how anyone could imagine that we're just going to come here and go all guns blazing and going to take them on and just going to win, because they are a very good side.

"They just dominated Denmark, all over them."

McCarthy was in feisty mood in the wake of Saturday's 0-0 draw in Georgia, which sparked a level of criticism he patently felt was harsh, and he proclaimed himself "not bothered" by reported comments from former Denmark keeper Peter Schmeichel describing his team as "so bad".

He said: "I just keep getting messages from people saying, 'F the begrudgers' and I keep thinking, 'What's going on?'. And seriously, what's going on?

"I just don't get a feeling we are within a win of qualifying, I just don't get the sense there is some sense of anticipation or excitement and there should be.

"I've been asked if it is a cup final. No, but I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the prospect of winning. I think we're in a good position. Just because we're 90 minutes away doesn't mean to say it's going to happen.

"You can say it and make everyone feel good about it, but we have a hell of a task on to make sure that would happen playing against, I think, the best team in the group."

McCarthy's biggest decision appears to surround 19-year-old Brighton striker Aaron Connolly, whose debut in a late cameo in Tbilisi has catapulted him to the brink of a first start.

Asked if it would be a risk to throw the teenager in at the deep end, he replied: "Well, that's the question, isn't it? Asking me would I risk him, there's some suggestion that there is (a risk).

"I don't think there is. He's now made his debut. He had a cameo and did well and I think he will be feeling comfortable, so no, I don't think it would be a risk at all to start him."

However, McCarthy admitted he may have to change the shape of his team to accommodate Connolly and provide him with the support he would need.

He said: "I wouldn't want him to be isolated up there. They play three at the back and I think putting Aaron into that, if I decided to do it, putting him up on his own would be a big ask."

Switzerland have a tendency to concede late goals. They led the Danes 3-0 with six minutes remaining in Basel in March, but only emerged with a point, and after David McGoldrick snatched a 1-1 draw for the Republic in Dublin with an 85th-minute header last month, Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen repeated the dose to inflict defeat on Saturday.

Boss Petkovic said: "We have difficulties with late goals. We have got to look at ways we can avoid these situations."

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