Irish keeper from Brussels backs O’Neill and ‘boys in green’
In an apartment in one part of Brussels tomorrow, the neighbours of what appears to be a regular Belgian family will be surprised to hear cheers if Ireland score.
Born and bred in Belgium, with a career that sees him earn his crust with top club Anderlecht, Liam Bossin should be supporting the Red Devils.
But he’s really one of the boys in green and has the caps to prove it as Bossin has played at U19 and U21 level for the Republic. His mother, Majella Carton, hails from Carrick-on-Suir and she made sure of where her son’s loyalty would lie at international level.
“We will all be supporting Ireland tomorrow, even my dad (Eric) who is Belgian,” Liam (19) told the Herald. “My girlfriend will be here too, she is Belgian so it will be pretty funny if Ireland do win.”
His eligibility made known to the FAI by a coach at his club in Belgium (Anderlecht have another Irish/Belgian prospect on the books, Robin Walsh), Bossin was first called up to the U19 squad for a friendly against Romania in February 2014.
Playing in a 1-0 friendly win over Holland that September was a highlight and in March 2015 he made his competitive debut, in the U19 Euro qualifiers.
Bossin stepped up to the Irish U21 squad, winning his first cap at that level against an England C team in Galway 12 months ago.
He turns 20 next month so he has time on his side to force his way into Noel King’s U21 panel for the remaining games of the already-failed Euro qualifying campaign. Given his presence in the Belgian game he has an insight into what the Belgians have to offer - the national team often train at his club’s Neerpede base so he has come across the Red Devils.
Bossin was the main keeper for Anderlecht’s U21 side last season but progress to their senior squad is not easy, seeing as ex-international Silvio Proto has been the first-choice keeper for seven seasons, and he hopes to push on in the coming season, possibly following the path worn by Belgian keeper Courtois and Mignolet to England.
He’s also eager to progress at international level with Ireland’s U21s but for now, it’s all about the Euros for this Belgian/Irish keeper. Thirty one places separate Belgium and Ireland in the FIFA world rankings, but from his Brussels base this week, Bossin sees problems ahead for the Belgians, still smarting from Monday’s 1-0 loss to Italy.
“Belgium were very very confident before the Euros, now after the Italy game they are back down earth. Now they start getting worried, there are tensions in the group I think,” he says.
One area where Belgium appear stronger on paper is their goalkeeping department as they have two Premier League regulars (Courtois and Mignolet) while Ireland have none, but that will have no bearing tomorrow, says fellow keeper Bossin.
“I don’t think it’s a factor, Randolph did very well against Sweden. And when Ireland won against Germany it was against the best goalkeeper in the world so it’s not a problem. Of course Courtois is one of the best but he can’t do everything himself, and the Belgian defence is not the best I have seen because there are a lot of injured players.”
One of the criticisms of the Belgian outfit is that a bunch of individuals have not gelled into a team, something which Bossin sees.
“Individually they have more big names but who cares? It’s the team that counts. And Ireland have the best supporters of the Euros - and the world - and that could help them to beat Belgium,” he says.
“I think the Belgian players want to take revenge for their last game against Italy, but they won’t want to underestimate us.”