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Ward hopeful of unlikely Italy upset

Stephen Ward said no one in the Republic of Ireland camp is ready to go home ahead of their do-or-die Euro 2016 clash against Italy.

To have any hope of staying in the tournament, Ireland must do what neither Belgium nor Sweden could.

They have to score against the Euro 2012 finalists.

And Ward does not believe a changed Italy line-up – with Antonio Conte’s team having already qualified from Group E – would make that task any easier.

“Not really, no, because we see it here every day, being in the situation where you are not playing and everyone wants to impress,” Ward said.

“They want to go out and give the manager a selection headache. They know they are in the next round. Whatever players come in, they are a top quality side. They’ll have a point to prove to the manager. No matter what team goes out there, we’ll have to be on our game.”

A win for Ireland would take Martin O’Neill’s team up to four points and potentially to second depending on the outcome of Belgium’s contest with Sweden.

And Ward said his team-mates are trying to maintain a positive outlook ahead of their task, commending O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane for driving the passion within the playing group.

“We just feed off that. They show their passion before the game and it just rubs off on the players. When you go out there and you leave the dressing room, you are ready to go and everyone is ready to give it 100 per cent,” he said.

“To do it in a major championships, to qualify, would top everything. Everyone knows there is carrot dangling there. There is real incentive for the lads to go out there and give it a real go. No one wants to go home early.

“I think we are in a stronger position than we were four years ago, squad-wise, mentality-wise, and hopefully we can do something special.”

Wed 22 Jun, 2016
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