The Republic of Ireland’s opening Nations League matches against Bulgaria and Finland gave Stephen Kenny “some food for thought” as he looks ahead to the “bigger picture” of their Euro 2020 play-off.
In Kenny’s first two games as manager, Ireland drew in Bulgaria with a late Shane Duffy equaliser on Thursday and then lost 1-0 at home to Finland on Sunday.
But while frustrated not to take the three points in Dublin after a series of misses in the closing stages – including another Duffy header – Kenny’s focus was already on a vital meeting with Slovakia.
Ireland must come through that fixture next month and then a subsequent play-off final to qualify for the European Championship in 2021.
For that reason, the Ireland boss was willing to name experimental line-ups – he changed his entire midfield for the meeting with Finland – in a bid to find his best side.
“We wanted to win – my first game at home, of course we wanted to win – but, for us, there’s a bigger picture. That’s Slovakia.” Kenny explained to Sky Sports.
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“We were a bit experimental in the games, I think that’s evident. We want players to really put their hands up and put themselves in the picture for Slovakia.
“We need to increase our attacking options, for sure, for the game against Slovakia.
“We wanted to do that and some players did quite well. That gives us some food for thought for the game next month.”
Having struggled to break Finland down before the break, Ireland preyed on the visitors’ sloppiness at the back to muster big second-half chances.
They could not take their opportunities, however, and Kenny reflected: “We probably had four or five really good chances today.
“When you get them, you have to take them. It’s as simple as that. We’re disappointed, obviously, to lose the game.”
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