Stephen Kenny has challenged the Republic of Ireland to meet the might of France with “fire and ice” if they are to avoid a “slow death” in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.
Ireland welcome the beaten World Cup finalists, who opened their account with a 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands on Friday, to the Aviva Stadium on Monday evening knowing they will have to be at their very best to take anything from the game.
However, asked if he would set his team up conservatively in an attempt to contain the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, Kenny was defiant.
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He said: “No absolutely not. We’ve been working on a way of playing for the last two years. We’re very, very comfortable in possession, as comfortable as any team in Europe now in possession.
“Why would we change now? Why would we take a step back now? France, one of the best teams in the world coming at us, do we just suddenly change and not have the courage to do that and just accept a slow death? Definitely not.
“I think we’ll show – and we’ll need to show – fire and ice. We need to show fire, we need to have that level of tenacity in our play and aggression in our play, but also have composure in possession and have that level of calm in our play in possession. And it’s trying to combine the two.
“It’s not easy, not easy against the best team in the world who are in formidable form, as we saw the other night, but that’s the way we will definitely approach it.”
Whatever they manage to do in possession, Kenny’s team will have to find away to handle Mbappe, who scored twice against the Dutch, out of it if they are to prosper.
Asked if he had a special plan for that purpose, the manager said: “We respect the talents that France have. Mbappe is obviously an exceptional player and we have to back ourselves and have conviction in the way we play.
“Ultimately we will show the courage that is needed tomorrow night. But it would be naive not to have provisions.
“We are not naive enough to suggest that we don’t have to pay attention to him because obviously he’s an exceptional player but they have a lot of exceptional players.”
Kenny sweating on Coleman’s fitness | O’Dowda also a doubt
Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness ahead of the fixture.
The 34-year-old Everton defender reported for international duty nursing a slight thigh strain Kenny has admitted he is a doubt for the game at the Aviva Stadium.
Kenny said of Coleman: “No, he is not ruled out. We will have to see how training on Sunday goes.”
Coleman later joined his team-mates on the training pitch under grey skies at Abbotstown, but he faces a race against time to make the match.
Asked further if he could put a percentage on the chances of a key player being fit, Kenny added: “We have to see how it goes. I wouldn’t like to get drawn into percentages, but certainly Seamus is a very good player.
“It’s not so much his experience, it’s that he’s playing well himself at the moment. Experience is a factor, but his performances for Everton have been very good.
“For footballing reasons, he merits his place in the team because he has been playing very well for Everton and had an injury-free run and been able to train regularly over the last number of months and performed very well for Everton.
“He is the captain, of course, but we’ll have to see on that.”
Meanwhile, left wing-back Callum O’Dowda picked up a groin injury during Wednesday night’s 3-2 friendly victory over Latvia and while he too is yet to be ruled out, Preston’s Robbie Brady has been drafted in as cover.
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