Eamon Dunphy has dismissed Martin O’Neill’s assertion that the Euro 2016 draw “couldn’t have been any tougher”, saying that he expects Ireland to progress from Group E.
The Boys in Green will play Sweden, Belgium and Italy in France from 13-22 June with the possibility of three teams progressing to the last 16.
Marc Wilmots’ Belgium are currently ranked at number one in the world, while Italy, beaten finalists in 2012, are 15th. Both teams qualified top of their respective groups.
Sweden occupy the 35th spot, four below Ireland, and like O’Neill’s side, came through in a play-off.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1, Dunphy gave his assessment of the group, which the Ireland boss called “very difficult”.
He said: [O’Neill’s] first comment was ‘it couldn’t have been any tougher’. That’s not true. It’s not the group of death.
“We shouldn’t be always talking ourselves down. It’s a national trait, this sort of poor-mouth attitude.
“Nobody will want to play the Republic of Ireland because they know they are going to be in a tough match and we should go with that attitude.
“We shouldn’t be always talking ourselves down. It’s a national trait, this sort of poor-mouth attitude"
“Sweden are bang average. I saw the two play-off games against Denmark and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic did his stuff for them but they’re not a great team.
“Italy are old, don’t score goals, find it very difficult to score.
“Belgium have a collection of brilliant players – Hazard, Benteke, Lukaku – they are formidable. They have punched below their weight all the time Marc Wilmots has been the coach and he is under severe pressure.
“They went through in the World Cup to the last eight, beating USA [after extra-time]. Is that stuff that would frighten you? No.”
Ireland’s decent record at major championships was demolished in Poland three years ago with losses to Croatia, Spain and Italy.
However, Dunphy claims that things will be different this time around, with a number of players coming into form for their clubs.
“I think our attitude should be ‘do everything right’.
“Trapattoni ruined us in 2012 when we went to the finals by over-training the players and they were so tired and flat.
“Also we were in a desperate group with Italy and Spain, who actually contested the final. Now we’re not in that situation, that was a group of death. I expect us to do really well.
“I think we’ve got to concentrate on what we do ourselves. We have a good squad of players. I don’t think the group is by any means impossible.
“I expect us to get out of it.
"We’ll be able to field a team of Premier League players. We have some outstanding players – Robbie Brady, Seamus Coleman playing really well for their clubs.
"Wes Hoolahan scored for Norwich against Everton at the weekend.
“We have some good goalkeepers; [Rob] Elliot is playing brilliantly for Newcastle.”
Ireland take on Switzerland and Slovakia on 25 and 29 March in Dublin, with another friendly lined up against an unconfirmed opposition at the end of May.