Stephen Kenny urges Republic of Ireland to bring momentum to Nations League

Stephen Kenny has urged the Republic of Ireland to channel their build-up momentum into this summer’s Nations League campaign.

reland extended his unbeaten streak to seven games with an impressive performance in a 2-2 friendly draw against world no 11 games lost since a humiliating 1-0 qualifying defeat by Luxembourg in March last year.

For Kenny, who hasn’t won any of his first 10 games as a coach as Covid-19 and injuries hampered his efforts to build a revamped team, it’s a sign of real progress, which he hopes his players will see Tuesday night’s friendly against Lithuania and beyond after an encouraging performance on a big day for Irish football.

He said: “We wanted the players to live up to that, especially against the world number one, that was important.

“It was amazing to have a near full capacity audience and the passion in the crowd, the players fed off of it.

“We wanted to continue our unbeaten run and continue the good run we’ve had in the last 10, 11 games.


Alan Browne (centre) scored for Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We’ve played against some good teams – twice against Serbia, twice against Portugal and against Belgium – so it was important to keep that going and try to gain momentum because the Nations League games in June and September are important and we want to build momentum for it. ”

Kenny faced concerted criticism in the early months of his reign for trying to take a different approach while introducing a new generation of players.

Fed up with suggestions that the nation doesn’t have the staff to play progressive football, he has overhauled the squad and brought in younger players who have thrived under him at Under-21 level and asked them to play up front instead to try to contain stronger teams.

That policy paid off on Saturday night as Michy Batshuayi put the visitors ahead after a dominant start and the Republic came into play and equalized through a spectacular overhead kick from Chiedozie Ogbene before substitute Alan Browne canceled out a Hans Vanaken header .

Despite leaving their biggest names at home, the Belgians still fielded an impressive squad and it was a testament to Ireland’s resilience that they were under pressure and pressure at all times apart from that initial phase.

Kenny said: “It takes a tremendous amount of energy and you can’t even easily carry a player against a team of that quality. It takes tremendous determination because you’re falling behind one on one.

We don’t have that, we don’t want that. We want to try to influence the game.Stephen Kenny, Republic of Ireland manager

“We’re willing to do that because we just don’t want to be in a low block to defend against them.

“You could play them in the middle of the block and end up in a low block and not come out because they’re so good and then it’s a slow death.

“We don’t have that, we don’t want that. We want to try to influence the game.” Stephen Kenny urges Republic of Ireland to bring momentum to Nations League

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