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Thursday 29 September 2016

We are well able of beating big teams

Coleman draws on memory of Germany win for key Italy tie

Seamus Coleman in action for Ireland during the Group E match against Belgium. Pic: Sportsfile
Seamus Coleman in action for Ireland during the Group E match against Belgium. Pic: Sportsfile
Seamus Coleman at squad training. Pic: Sportsfile

The timing wasn't ideal for Seamus Coleman when it comes to the glory days in sport.

Just three years old when his native Donegal side won their first all-Ireland title, he was also too young to really remember Ireland's success - including that win over Italy, an Irish triumph for the ages - at the 1994 World Cup.

That win over the Italians was the first taste of the tournament for Ireland at USA '94 and failure to beat the same nation here in Lille tonight will end Irish interest in the tournament.

But Coleman, who has yet to lose a game or even concede a goal in his two encounters with Italy to date, feels there is a big win within the reach of this Republic of Ireland side.

"I probably can't remember too much of it, I remember the goals and the rest," Coleman says when asked of his memories of USA '94, the Ray Houghton goal, and that stunning win.

"We don't have to look too far back, that night in Dublin with Shane Long's goal was a memorable night for us all, we know that when it all clicks for us we stick together for the 90 minutes and we don't lose concentration we are capable of beating big teams, I do genuinely believe that there is a big result left in is in this group.

"We know we beat the world champions when we had to beat them. That was no easy game. If we can beat Germany in a must-win game, why can't we beat Italy?"

Coleman is of that generation: too young to have a real memory of the Charlton years, when Ireland could really expect to beat the likes of Spain in a World Cup qualifier and beat England and Italy at a major finals once qualification was ticked off, but old enough to know what happened and who is who.

There was a touching moment after the last friendly in Dublin, the draw with Holland, when Paul McGrath and James McClean crossed paths in the bowels of the stadium. It seemed as if the current player was more keen to get a selfie with the 56-year-old legend (even though the Derry man was only eight when McGrath played for his country for the last time) than a case of McGrath hoping to get a pic of a current star.

Suffered

Irish football suffered, and suffered badly in the aftermath of Euro 2012 when the Republic were the first team knocked out and went home with the joint worst record in the history of the finals tournament.

So the current crop - especially the ones who are over 30 and are playing for Ireland on the big stage for the last time - know this is their chance to become, if not legends, then at least heroes.

"Definitely, if you look back over the years, you have seen players making a name for themselves and becoming heroes among the Irish fans, it's something that you dream about," Coleman said.

"As the manager said, that's the end game and hopefully that will be the case, and whatever players the manager picks to go out there and put in the hard graft for 90 minutes, the rest will come. But it's definitely an opportunity and the whole squad believes we can get four points out of this group."

Four years ago, Coleman famously watched the Euro 2012 tournament on the TV in his local pub in Killybegs as he was not selected by the manager. He has since defended Giovanni Trapattoni's decision not to select him, Coleman insisting (like a true politician) that he was not ready.

There was not the same defence of the Italian-led regime of the time when Coleman was asked to comment on statements made by Trap's sidekick, the ineffective Marco Tardelli when he said that the Irish players "have trouble handling the game tactically".

Coleman's response? "I'm not really bothered what Marco thinks," he said curtly.

He's interested in a response of another kind, an Ireland side capable of showing another side to their game, one which was not evident in Bordeaux on Saturday.

"We were massively disappointed after the Belgium game, don't get me wrong, we got beaten 3-0 and something we pride ourselves on his how compact we are, they broke away on us a few times but as soon as that game was over, we'd got beat, there wasn't much we could do about it, we knew we had a big task ahead of us so we had to forget about it as quickly as possible," said Coleman.

Very good

"Obviously go over things that we did wrong but we had too big of a job to dwell on it, and no better way to fix it than to play a game of football against Italy.

"The Italians are a very good side. People wrote them off before the tournament but they are very well-organised side, their wing backs like to get forward. Every team has weak points that we can capitalise on," added Coleman, keen to please the Irish fans.

"We want to give them something to celebrate. It's all well and good that we got here, we enjoyed getting here we enjoyed qualifying but now that we are here we want to get out of the group and that starts tonight, we want to finish the job."

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