Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has urged his players to show confidence in possession when they face Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday.
O’Neill’s side secured a 1-1 draw against Sweden from their first Euro 2016 Group E encounter, while Belgium sit bottom of the pile after a 2-0 defeat to Italy.
Ireland produced a strong performance in that game and were only denied maximum points by an own goal from Ciaran Clark, and O’Neill wants his players to sustain that level of form when they take on Marc Wilmots’ under-pressure team.
“I think the way the team played, they can draw great strength from that,” he said on Friday. “There have been a few days now and the bulk of the players have had time to rest up.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t look at options. Jon Walters won’t be fit so we have to make at least one change.
“Hopefully we’ll have the same type of approach. Our strategy might be a bit different, we have to look at Belgium’s strengths, they’re as talented as any side playing. They’d maybe look at us and think some of us don’t play at the level they do every week.
“What’s important is that we play with the same sort of confidence when we have the ball. These are big games for us and we have to be mentally tuned in, physically as strong as possible, and we can’t afford 15-20 minute periods where we fall into a lull.
“The games have been very tight but it’s not a real surprise. I’m not exactly sure of the reason and it would be interesting to compare to previous competitions. I hope we’ll be tight tomorrow.”
Experienced centre-back John O’Shea is fully prepared for a physical encounter against a Belgium side who boast Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Marouane Fellaini among a number of intimidating forward players.
“Whatever team we face tomorrow, we’ll be fully aware of the quality they have,” said the Sunderland defender. “They have a good mix of skill and physicality and it’s a quality combination.
“We have to get more points to get to the knockout stage and we have a chance tomorrow [Saturday]. We’ve got Italy [on matchday three] in the back of our minds but we have a difficult game against Belgium.
“A lot of their squad play in the Premier League so I’m familiar with their attributes, but we have to focus on ourselves and we hope we can cause one or two problems ourselves.”
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