Chiedozie Ogbene calls for patience as Republic of Ireland build winning mentality
Stephen Kenny's young team came within a whisker of holding FIFA's third-ranked team in Dublin on Monday night as one error and a remarkable save saw them lose their opening Group B fixture 1-0.
However, a team with 18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson leading the line and Nathan Collins helping to nullify superstar Kylian Mbappe at the age if 21 did enough to suggest that progress is being made as they turn their attention to June's clashes with Greece and Gibraltar.
Reflecting upon an evening of mixed emotions, Rotherham striker Ogbene said: "Overall you have to look at the positives, but we are disappointed. "We don't want to celebrate losses and we don't want to celebrate good performances - we want to celebrate results. We are disappointed not to get a point at least. "You're asking a young team to beat France and to compete against the best in the world so soon. "From our history, we haven't been the best nation, so it's a process and we're trying to change, we're trying to slowly build into a winning mentality and that's not going to happen overnight. "We put up performances against big teams, but it's very difficult for us to match these nations that have gone to the World Cup and we're trying to get to that destination, so it will take time. "We know, we all want it today and I want it today, but hopefully sooner rather than later we can get it to go in the right way." Few gave Ireland any chance of upsetting the French, who had romped to a 4-0 victory over the Netherlands in Paris three days earlier, at the Aviva Stadium, but they very nearly emerged with something to show for their efforts. Benjamin Pavard's 50th-minute strike, having pounced upon a rare error by Josh Cullen, ultimately won the day, but only a brilliant last-gasp save by Mike Maignan prevented Collins from snatching a point which would have represented a triumph for Kenny's men. Qualification always looked a tall order when the draw was made, but Monday night's performance has increased belief that Ireland can certainly compete in the group. Ogbene said: "I'm sure Holland were shocked by France's performance in the first half and by watching that game, we knew we couldn't make the same mistakes. "But yes, we have to be confident. We have to go into the Holland games (in September and November) and try to win. Most importantly, the two games coming up in June, we have to get the six points from those games and that's the expectation we have of ourselves. "But, as I said, we need to be consistent. It's going to be difficult, obviously, but that's something we're striving towards."
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