Roy Keane has warned Republic of Ireland’s Group E opponents not to underestimate them ahead of their Euro 2016 bow against Sweden at the Stade de France on Monday.
Ireland suffered a 2-1 defeat to Belarus in their final warm-up fixture on May 31, though veteran forward Robbie Keane was absent due to a calf problem.
Despite heading into the match on the back of a disappointing loss, the assistant coach offered assurances they will prove a match for anyone in France.
“Don’t doubt what this group of players will bring to the party,” said Roy Keane.
“The other teams are in for a tough game against us. We know we’re in for a tough game on Monday. They are a good team.”
Robbie Keane has not been Martin O’Neill’s only fitness worry, with Jonathan Walters and James McCarthy also concerns.
However, having taken a day to rest on Friday, Roy Keane is confident the full squad will be in contention to start in Saint-Denis.
While a starting berth for all-time record appearance maker and goalscorer Robbie Keane is unlikely, the assistant coach believes any role he can play will be influential.
“[There was] no reaction to Robbie Keane or Robbie Brady’s injuries. It’s good for the manager to have all players available for selection,” said Roy Keane.
“Jon Walters took part in training today and got through it. It was a decent session for him.
“We’re looking forward to it. You have to enjoy these moments. We’ll certainly enjoy it a lot more if we get the right results.
“Robbie will have a massive role to play. If he’s in the starting 11 or used as a sub, he’ll make an impact.”
Ireland have never beaten Sweden in a competitive fixture, with all of their three victories from their 10 previous encounters coming in friendlies.
Erik Hamren’s side were 2-1 winners in their last meeting during qualification for the 2014 World Cup, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not find the target.
The striker is without a club for next season and, amid links to Manchester United, will be relishing the chance to shine on the international stage.
However, midfielder Oscar Lewicki believes the whole team will be ready for the challenge having worked exceptionally hard beforehand.
“Training has been ratcheted up further. It’s great,” he said.
“It has been an incredibly good intensity and quality and that’s the way it should be. It shows how much everyone wants this.”
Key Opta stats:
– Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never scored in three games played against Republic of Ireland. He could become – along with Cristiano Ronaldo – the first player to score in four different editions of the European Championship. He is also only three goals short of Michel Platini’s record in the tournament (9 goals).
– This will be Ireland’s third appearance at the European Championship finals after 1988 and 2012. They have never gone past the group stages.
– Sweden have reached the knockout stages of this competition only twice in their five previous appearances: 1992 (eliminated by Germany in the semi-finals) and 2004 (knocked out on penalties by Netherlands in the quarter-finals).
– Robbie Keane has scored two goals in three starts against Sweden.
– Sweden have failed to score in three of their last four games against Ireland.
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