Ryan Byrne/INPHO Stephen Kenny.
Moving On

'We look like we’re a good team and could give anyone a game' - Kenny looks ahead to Greek test

Kenny also says it is ‘too early to say’ whether the Greece game is a must-win given Ireland’s difficult group.

STEPHEN KENNY SAYS Ireland’s performance against France should breed confidence in his squad and said it is “too early to say” whether Ireland’s next qualifier away to Greece is a must-win game in the context of a very difficult group.

Only a Mike Maignan save Kenny described as “out of this world” denied Ireland a point against France in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on Monday night, but his side must now follow-up a fine performance with one in a very different challenge against fourth seeds Greece in June. 

“It’s too early to say”, replied Kenny when it was put to him that Ireland had to win away to Greece because of the difficulty of a group also featuring with France and the Netherlands, whereas ordinarily a draw away from home would be considered a good result. 

“We have a tough game in Greece and we have to go and try and win that game and obviously Gibraltar after that, here. So we have to dust ourselves down and get ready for June now. We’ll get ready for that. It’s a tough game. Nobody gives you anything. We’ve no divine right to win in Greece but that’s certainly our ambition.”

Greece were the second-highest ranked side Ireland could have drawn from pot four in the draw and, now managed by Gus Poyet, they have a very strong home record in Athens to protect: they have lost just once at home in the last two years, and that was s 1-0 loss to Spain. 

Ireland’s preparation will be complicated by the game’s scheduling: the game is slated for 16 June, fully 39 days after the end of the Championship season, in which the majority of Ireland’s starting team against France play. To that end, Ireland will gather for a camp in England before then travelling to Turkey for another training camp ahead of departure for Athens.  

Kenny sees Greece as contending for the two automatic qualifying spots in the group. 

“They’ve a lot of good players”, said Kenny. “Certainly there are four teams in contention for two places, do you know what I mean? You’d feel France are the top team so certainly we need a good game in Greece and we have to go there and put in a big performance to get a victory.”

While Kenny admitted Ireland were disappointed not to draw against France on Monday, he said the quality of the performance should breed belief in his squad. 

“I think it sort of reinforces the belief that they’re good enough to build the way that we have, play through midfield, for attacking players to cause a team as good as France a lot of issues. Obviously, their players are [from] Bayern Munich, PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona – so they’re top class and all at the best clubs. But most people would feel that it was a strong performance, we’re disappointed with the goal we conceded of course, but [we're happy with] the effort from the players and on a technical level. France really didn’t sit off us. They really came at us and made it difficult.

“And Dara O’Shea played that straight passes to Jason Knight where he’s got one touch, play off the outside of his right foot for Matt Doherty on the run – the touchline is here. Two or three times they did it brilliantly and got up the left side and got in: there was a lot of good technical skill in terms of composure from the players. I’m not saying it was perfect, there are still areas we can improve, for sure. But, listen, I am disappointed to lose but we can take a lot of encouragement. The players know themselves, they can feel it in training, they feel like we’re a proper…we look like we’re a good team and could give anyone a game. We gave France a game, but let’s try and win as many teams as we can now.” 

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