Enda Stevens wants this Ireland side to approach next month’s qualifier at home to Denmark as a ‘cup final’ and use that game to erase memories from the 5-1 loss to the Danes two years ago.
The Irish squad, stretched and tested by a week of international football which saw them fail to score in two away games, and yet (somehow) still remain top of the Group D table, are already back at their clubs.
Stevens and his Sheffield United team-mates have an extra few days to recover before they are on duty again, the Blades’ next game against Arsenal on Monday night.
But thoughts are already on that November date with the Danes in Dublin.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose the game, but we knew going into it that we had two cup finals left, so it’s on to Denmark now,” Stevens said, reflecting on Tuesday’s 2-0 loss in Geneva.
“We would have taken one win out of two games gets you to the Euros, so we’ve got to look forward to that, and especially being at home in the Aviva Stadium.
“Hopefully we can really knuckle down and get the three points that we need.
“They (Switzerland) were saying it was a cup final for them, we said it was a cup final for us. Fortunately we’ve got another cup final now next,” he added.
Stevens wasn’t even in the squad when Ireland played, and lost to, Denmark in that play-off for the 2018 World Cup but he senses the pain of that from his team-mates and is keen to erase the memory,
“There’s no better way to do it than playing them at home and that’s what we’ll be looking forward to.
“Hopefully there’ll be a big crowd there to push us over the line and get us to the Euros,” he said.
Absent in 2017 but central to Ireland’s play on Tuesday night, Stevens was one of those players forced to think on their feet when Mick McCarthy ditched the three-man defence to play a flat back four mid-game but Stevens says it was not the new-look side which hampered the team in white shirts.
“I don’t think it was the formation, I just think it was our passing.
“We didn’t really get into the flow of things and we kept giving the ball away and they kind of got the lift that they needed and they ended up taking the lead, which was disappointing,” he added.
“We were very sloppy in possession and we just gave them a lift with our sloppiness.
“We didn’t really start passing the ball until we went 1-0 down, and that’s the disappointing thing.”
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