It’s refreshing that The Boys In Green are in another major tournament – even if this one is an expanded edition of the Euros that we scraped in to via the play-offs. That doesn’t matter now. We are in. We are here. And we are good to go.
These are the events where memories are made and history is written. Yes, our last time in this competition was forgettable, but you’re looking at a new look Ireland team. A new feel about it.
The Trapattoni era had some good moments, but it was too short on confidence (and other complaints). Do you think that an Ireland team during that period could take on the world champions Germany and beat them?
Under Martin O’Neill it’s certainly different. The former Celtic boss’ fearlessness is what I admire most. And having Roy Keane as his number 2 is no bad thing. Even if he did want to kill some of the lads after a defeat to Belarus in Cork.
So we’re here. On Monday night, we take on Sweden in the Stade de France (which I will miss because I will be on a plane from Buenos Aires to London – argh!). To say that this game is crucial is quite the understatement. Three points to begin with is vital. Because the remaining games won’t get any easier.
Saturday 18th, we face Belgium in the wine-rich city of Bordeaux. Marc Wilmots’ men have to be one of the favourites to win the competition in my opinion. They boast a plethora of talent and names such as Hazard, Benteke, Carrasco, Du Bruyne to name but a few can cause serious issues. But with the right style and the belief, anything is possible. (As the Germans found out.)
Then our final group game is against Italy on Wednesday 22nd in the city of Lille. You probably remember that we met the Italians in the last European Championships in Poznan. A game we were beaten fairly by 2-0. This time it’s a little different. The Azzurri have quite an ageing team with names such as De Rossi, Motta, Chiellini, Buffon and Barzagli. Could we catch the Italians at a good time? I believe so. But I want Robbie Keane and the lads to have the same belief.
I’m not saying we are going to win the tournament or anything. But as Leicester City showed us – anything is actually possible.
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Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)