Stephen Kenny urges Republic to meet France with ‘fire and ice’ in Dublin clash
Stephen Kenny has challenged the Republic of Ireland to meet the might of France with “fire and ice” if they are to avoid a “slow death” in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.
Ireland welcome the beaten World Cup finalists, who opened their account with a 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands on Friday, to the Aviva Stadium on Monday evening knowing they will have to be at their very best to take anything from the game.
However, asked if he would set his team up conservatively in an attempt to contain the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, Kenny was defiant.
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He said: “No absolutely not. We’ve been working on a way of playing for the last two years. We’re very, very comfortable in possession, as comfortable as any team in Europe now in possession.
“Why would we change now? Why would we take a step back now? France, one of the best teams in the world coming at us, do we just suddenly change and not have to courage to do that and just accept a slow death? Definitely not.
“I think we’ll show – and we’ll need to show – fire and ice. We need to show fire, we need to have that level of tenacity in our play and aggression in our play, but also have composure in possession and have that level of calm in our play in possession. And it’s trying to combine the two.
“It’s not easy, not easy against the best team in the world who are in formidable form, as we saw the other night, but that’s the way we will definitely approach it.”
Whatever they manage to do in possession, Kenny’s team will have to find away to handle Mbappe, who scored twice against the Dutch, out of it if they are to prosper.
Asked if he had a special plan for that purpose, the manager said: “We respect the talents that France have. Mbappe is obviously an exceptional player and we have to back ourselves and have conviction in the way we play.
“Ultimately we will show the courage that is needed tomorrow night. But it would be naive not to have provisions.
“We are not naive enough to suggest that we don’t have to pay attention to him because obviously he’s an exceptional player but they have a lot of exceptional players.”
Kenny has doubts over skipper Seamus Coleman and wing-back Callum O’Dowda, who are nursing thigh and groin injuries respectively, and Robbie Brady has been drafted into the squad as cover for a game which has the potential to make Irish sporting folklore if it goes well, but could turn very ugly if it does not.
He said: “They (France) have been the best team in the world over the last eight years for sure, consistently getting to two World Cup finals, winning the World Cup, losing the second one on penalties.
“It’s very rare a number one seed with world-class players, as the Netherlands are, gets taken apart like that and defeated convincingly. That’s very rare.”