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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Selection Dilemmas
We pick the Ireland line-up that needs to start against Belgium tomorrow
The Boys in Green go into their second Euro 2016 fixture at the Stade de Bordeaux on Saturday.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Francois Mori Francois Mori

- Ben Blake reports from Bordeaux

IT’S OVER TO Bordeaux for Matchday 2 as Ireland look to build on what was an encouraging performance in their first outing at Euro 2016.

Having looked the better side against Sweden up until their equalising goal in Monday’s 1-1 draw, the Boys in Green face a star-studded Belgium side keen to bounce back from defeat to Italy tomorrow afternoon (2pm Irish time).

Jon Walters is the notable absentee and a significant loss as the current Player of the Year continues to struggle with tendonitis. That injury forces Martin O’Neill into at least one change, but the good news is that we’ve been told Wes Hoolahan will be available to play.

Goalscorer and man-of-the-match at the Stade de France, Hoolahan came off feeling his calf but trained during the week. At 34, there have been doubts over whether the Norwich City attacker can play three games in the space of nine days, but his influence on this team is enormous and he needs to start, if fit.

While bringing in James McClean for Walters appears the obvious switch, a change at full-back could best fill the void left by the team’s talisman.

Against Sweden, goalkeeper Darren Randolph and the back four of Seamus Coleman, captain John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark and Robbie Brady were solid throughout.

But by replacing Brady with Stephen Ward, it would give the former an opportunity to line out on the left of midfield and make a greater contribution to the attacking side of Ireland’s play with his crossing and an ability to link up well with team-mates in compact spaces.

Brady also has the legs track back and double up on whoever Belgium boss Marc Wilmots opts for on the right of their 4-2-3-1. Kevin De Bruyne started there in the loss to Italy but there are reports that the Manchester City attacker could be moved into a more central role, which could open the door for Yannick Carrasco or Dries Mertens.

There have been calls for James McCarthy to be dropped after a below-par performance against the Swedes, and although he wasn’t at his best, the Everton midfielder still gets my vote over the alternatives — although Stephen Quinn should be given a chance alongside the excellent Glenn Whelan for the Italy game if McCarthy’s poor form continues tomorrow.

O’Neill described Jeff Hendrick as “a revelation” after his starring role in Paris and he is just as capable of producing another eye-catching display on the opposite side of the pitch.

There is also an argument to call up Daryl Murphy and play him in a two-man attack by sticking with the 4-4-2 diamond, but Long can cause the Belgian defence problems as a lone striker.

The system relies heavily on Hoolahan, Brady and Hendrick getting forward to ensure he isn’t left isolated, however.

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Which starting XI would you like to see line out tomorrow?

Listen to The42′s Ben Blake on the 98FM Euro 2016 Daily podcast throughout the tournament 

Belgium boss Wilmots forced to dismiss talk of leaks and in-fighting on the eve of Ireland clash

‘Shane Long at the same level as Belgium’s strikers’

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