Republic of Ireland defender Seamus Coleman is desperate to give coach Martin O’Neill “a big night” when they face Italy in Lille on Wednesday.
Only a win against the Group E leaders will keep Ireland’s chances of the reaching the Euro 2016 knockouts alive, following their draw with Sweden and 3-0 defeat to Belgium.
Coleman admits that the loss on matchday two was tough to overcome, but he says the entire squad is determined to repay O’Neill’s efforts during his three years in charge so far.
“You’ve seen players make themselves heroes back down the years and it’s something you dream about, but that’s the end game,” he said. “Whoever the manager picks has to go out and put in the hard graft. The squad believes they can get the win.
“We were massively disappointed after Belgium, don’t get me wrong. We pride ourselves on being compact and they broke away a few times. But we had to forget about it as quickly as possible. There’s no better way to fix it than to play a game of football against Italy.
“Since the manager’s come in, he lets you know when you do things right or wrong, but he has a knack of getting the lads to do the best for him. We’ll be doing this for all the staff, the fans and ourselves. We hope we can gi
ve the manager a big night.”
Plenty of pre-match talk has centred on Ireland’s famous win over Italy at the World Cup in 1994, though O’Neill was keen to point to their 1-0 victory over world champions Germany during qualifying as a more pertinent source for inspiration.
And Coleman agrees that the defeat of Joachim Low’s side proved that Ireland have what it takes to upset the very best teams in Europe.
“I can’t remember much of the ’94 game but we don’t have to look too far back,” he said. “Shane Long’s goal that night in Dublin [against Germany] we remember well, and when it all clicks for us and we don’t lose concentration then we can beat big teams. I believe there’s a big result left in us in this group.
“Our fans have been brilliant since we got here and we knew that would be the case. But we really want to give them something to celebrate.”