Stephen Kenny has called on his young side to carry an attacking threat against Portugal in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night.
The Republic of Ireland manager acknowledged his side are facing an uphill task as Cristiano Ronaldo goes in search of the men's all-time international goal record at the Algarve Stadium, but was adamant focusing solely on keeping the hosts at bay would be pointless.
The Portuguese superstar, whose transfer to Manchester United was confirmed earlier on Tuesday, needs just one strike to edge clear of Iran great Ali Daei and reach the historic 110 mark.
And Kenny was at pains to point out the quality Ireland possess and the ability they have to cause a serious upset against the Group A leaders.
"Without doubt he’s an outstanding talent and has been for nearly two decades now really. It’s been such a long period of time since he first emerged," Kenny said of Ronaldo in his pre-match press conference in Faro this evening.
"They’ve got a lot of good players all over the park and from our point of view, it’s a great game for us. It’s an important World Cup qualifier and the players, we feel, we’ve got a lot of potential in our team.
"We’ve blooded a lot of players, we’ve given 11 players their competitive debut, we’ve given other players some friendly games.
"We’re looking to see even more progress, we had a good June window and we want to carry that into this window, starting with the game against Portugal and we’re looking forward to the game.
Manager Stephen Kenny says the Republic Ireland are looking forward to facing Portugal and potential world-record breaker Cristiano Ronaldo in their #WorldCup2022 qualifier on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/XoeHMwoUg3— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) August 31, 2021
"They’re the Nations League holders and the previous European champions so they’re a very strong team regardless. But we’re really focusing on ourselves, we’ve done our homework on Portugal, we know their strengths, but we want to focus on ourselves and putting in a really strong performance here tomorrow night.
"We have to carry an attacking threat and we can’t afford to defend for 90 minutes. It’s not the way we’re set up to do that, it’s not our intention. We have to carry an attacking threat. Portugal have too much quality to sit back for 90 minutes, it’s not workable.
"We have to have belief in ourselves to carry an attacking threat and that’s certainly our ambition. It’s the balance between experienced players and young players. You can see the connection between them and there is a good rapport, and we need to see that manifest itself into strong performances this week."
Ireland have lost their opening two fixtures, away to Serbia and at home to Luxembourg, and Kenny’s first win since taking charge came in a summer friendly against Andorra at the 12th time of asking.
They followed that up with a draw away to Hungary prior to Euro 2020 and are somehow looking to build on that momentum against Portugal, before back-to-back home games against Azerbaijan and Serbia on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.
A host of first-choice players are absent due to Covid-19 and injury, with in-form West Brom forward Callum Robinson absent as he isolates having contracted the virus for the second time.
Midfielder Alan Browne, who found the net in the opening qualifier in Belgrade, is a close contact so is unavailable, while Enda Stevens and Jason Knight are injured.
However, captain Seamus Coleman was adamant such selection issues won’t be used as an excuse for Ireland not delivering the right performance.
"I was one of those young players before. You look towards the senior players for standards, the way they behave around the place, the pride they have in the shirt every time they go out and meet up," the Donegal man added.
"As senior players it’s important to give off that example and the young lads learn form us as much as they can.
"The mix is there and I’m quite happy with how we are as a group as well. We’ve always been a together unit and that will continue. As far as me and the senior lads go, we will always be doing the right things, whether that be around the hotel, or on the training pitch to show how important it is to turn up and be proud to put on that green shirt."
Follow Portugal v Ireland with our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 7pm and listen to live commentary on 2fm's Game On.
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