Roy Keane has called for Republic of Ireland to adopt a “streetwise” approach against Group E winners Italy as they seek to keep their Euro 2016 adventure going.
A 3-0 loss to Belgium last time out left Ireland’s qualification hopes hanging by a thread, with only a point to show for their efforts following the opening-game 1-1 draw with Sweden.
Italy have been impressive in France, with back-to-back wins assuring them of top spot, and Keane believes Ireland will have to be aggressive in Lille on Wednesday in order to disrupt Antonio Conte’s side.
He explained: “My advice would be to take them out. We saw Italy do it against Belgium where a player got a yellow card when they were breaking on the halfway line.
“He then kicked the ball out. You have to be streetwise in this game. We are not here to make friends – the fans are doing that. If you can hold the ball up then fantastic. If you smell danger then you do whatever you can to get the right result.”
Ireland were too easily picked off against Belgium after falling behind to Romelu Lukaku’s 48th-minute opener, with the Everton forward adding another after Axel Witsel had scored.
Keane stressed the need for focus and ball retention as Ireland chase an unlikely victory that could see them take second spot.
“When you’re chasing the ball, the concentration levels can be down and that’s when you make mistakes so it’s important to keep hold of the ball,” the former Manchester United captain added.
“That’s what frustrated the manager with all the mistakes. We gave the ball away far too cheaply. You have to take care of the ball.
“There’s no problem giving it away 30 yards from goal, but when you’re sloppy in the middle of the park that puts you under massive pressure, and when you’re playing a big team you are in big trouble.”
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