Former Irish international Tony Cascarino believes Sweden are there for the taking in the Republic of Ireland‘s opening Euro 2016 fixture.
“We need to get something out of that first game and hopefully three points,” commented the former Irish international.
“All three teams in our group have a lot of things in common. Each possesses a strong and mobile centre-forward; Graziano Pelle for Italy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden and Romelu Lukaku or Christian Benteke for Belgium.
“I believe the Swedes are there for the taking though. The result of that first group game will determine the attitude for the rest of our campaign. I wouldn’t like to see us chasing either Italy or Belgium if we lost that opening fixture to Sweden so it is imperative that we get a big result on the first day.”
Speaking at the 2016 Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star of the Year awards in conjunction with the Southern Star and C103fm, the former Republic striker hailed the growing influence of Jon Walters on Irish fortunes.
“A lot of players stepped up to the mark over the past year when Martin O’Neill needed them to and none more so than Jon Walters,” said Cascarino.
“He was the standout player for Ireland this past year, no doubt about it, especially with Robbie Keane into his mid-thirties and Ireland not being able to keep relying on him to score the majority of our goals.
“Losing Robbie was huge, Shane Long, as talented a player as he is, didn’t deliver for us on a consistent basis apart from that winner against Germany. Shane didn’t take over Robbie’s mantle so it fell to one of our long-time unsung heroes Jon Walters to step up and he certainly delivered.
“Jon showed what he was all about, rolled up his sleeves and became one of the team’s most important players.
“I tell you, Irish fans love their heroes and immediately appreciated and recognised Jon’s contribution over an important period of games.”
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