Some walls even Robbie Brady can’t find a way past.
With Martin O’Neill awarding the 11 players who started Monday’s encounter with Sweden the following afternoon off, Ireland’s dead ball specialist decided to spend it by taking in the splendour that is the Palace of Versailles.
Problem was the palace and grounds were closed due to yet more strikes, leaving Brady with no option but to turn on his heel and make his way back around the exterior of the vast brickwork towards the team hotel. Annoying, though studying history isn’t really top of his agenda.
“We’re here to win games,” he said. “We’re here to make history.”
Ireland came close at the Stade de France, but they have another opportunity to claim a rare win at a major tournament on Saturday in Bordeaux when they pit themselves against a Belgian side ranked second in the world but one backed into a corner after their opening loss to Italy.
“There’s nothing to fear, but they’ve got some fantastic players. We can’t have any fear going into these games. We’ve got players that can hurt teams, like we showed the other night. Hopefully, we can show what we’re about as well and try and shut out what they’ve got.”
Wes Hoolahan spoke after the draw with Sweden about how he felt Ireland had “stunned” the world with some of their football, but not everyone was impressed. Philippe Collin, the head of the Belgian FA technical commission, was anything but.
Collin was reported yesterday to have said that he was far from afraid of either the Republic or Sweden on recent evidence and that both sides were “two or three levels” behind the Belgians. Brady took such haughtiness in his stride when informed of it.
“It always helps when people are talking like that because it just gives us that extra urge. Hopefully we’ll only be two levels behind them come tomorrow, with that sort of talk! Ah no, it doesn’t bother me. We know what we are capable of and we know we are capable of hurting teams.
“Hopefully we can do that.”
Aping the fine balance they struck between composed and committed defence on the one hand and penetrative attacking on the other would go a long way towards negating the undoubted threat Belgium will bring, regardless of whether Eden Hazard and/or Kevin De Bruyne are fit or not.
Brady was exemplary in that respect on Monday, doing his bit in closing down Sweden, cantering forward down the left wing and delivering his customary darts from free kicks and corners. The side’s collective ambition and fluency was lauded. Some even saw it as revelatory.
Brady just sees it as a baseline.
“Some Ireland teams in the past might have had a different approach, but we have some lads in at the minute that are really good footballers. We like to get the ball down and play. It is about finding the balance. We managed to do that in the first game and hopefully we can do that for the second.”
Failure to build on Hoolahan’s goal diluted the worth of the display and, more importantly, the eventual reward, but Brady suspects that Sweden’s upturned fortunes were due as much to their substitutions as any mental retreat by Martin O’Neill’s side.
That failure to push on for the win and the thwarted palace tour apart, it has been a smooth trip for Brady whose girlfriend Kerrie and daughter Halle have travelled to France along with other members of their families.
Among them is Brady’s younger brother Liam, one of four St Kevin’s Boys players signed by League Two side Stevenage last year, and someone who has already begun to make his mark in a green jersey with Irish U18 and U19 sides.
“He’s moved over and I realise how hard it is. I’m only an hour, hour and 20 down the road from him, Stevenage to Norwich. He’s been coming down to me on his days off. It helps him knowing he has someone there. If he ever needs any help or advice, I’m there.”
Speculation yesterday had Brady linked with Leicester City. Roy Keane could joke only two weeks ago about how every club Brady joins seems to end up relegated so talk of a move to the Premier League champions is proof of how his stock has gone up. Another display or two like that against Sweden and he could find himself spoiled for suitors. “I’ve had a full season in the Premier League so there’s a fair idea of me there (already),” said Brady when asked about the potential for such a move back to the top level.
“Every platform is another level to impress. You want to do that in every game and you want to relish every game.”
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