Lille (France) (AFP) – Martin O’Neill has urged his Republic of Ireland side to be patient when they face Italy in Lille on Wednesday in their final group game at Euro 2016 needing a victory.
Ireland come into the game at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy bottom of Group E with just one point to their name so must win if they are to advance to the last 16 against an Italy side who are already through.
“It’s a fairly lengthy evening. We know at the end of it we have to be in front and it’s a case of being very, very strong to begin with,” O’Neill said at a press conference in Lille on Tuesday.
Ireland began their campaign with a promising 1-1 draw against Sweden at the Stade de France but were then well beaten by Belgium, losing 3-0 in Bordeaux on Saturday.
O’Neill, who admitted forward Jon Walters did not train on Tuesday and is “very doubtful”, added: “We have to be fresh, alert, play the game with a lot of energy and just be mindful of how decent the Italians are.
“But we must also be mindful ourselves of what we can do, what we achieved against Sweden without eventually getting the three points and take that sort of performance into consideration.”
With a maximum six points, Italy are already guaranteed to progress as group winners and coach Antonio Conte is expected to make as many as nine changes to his starting line-up to keep legs fresh and protect those members of his team who are one yellow card away from a ban.
“This is tournament football and I think possibly no one would know better than the Italians what it would be like to give some players who have played two games in three or four days a rest when it is possible,” acknowledged O’Neill.
“Sometimes it isn’t possible to do that when you think you have a certain number of players you are relying on. I think (rotate) is what most coaches would do in the position they are in.”
Meanwhile, right-back Seamus Coleman admitted the Irish players are determined to bounce back from their disappointing display against the Belgians, a performance they have now put out of their minds.
“Obviously we went over the things we did wrong but we have too big of a job to dwell on it and no better way to fix it than play a game of football tomorrow (Wednesday) against Italy,” said the Everton player.
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