Seamus Coleman is hoping the Republic of Ireland will be at their best when they run into the big guns in their bid to qualify for Euro 2020.
Ireland made hard work of disposing of Group D basement boys Gibraltar in Dublin on Monday evening, just as they had done on a difficult night on the Rock back in March.
Ultimately, a 2-0 win at the Aviva Stadium left Coleman and his team-mates five points clear at the top of the table having played more games than their immediate rivals, although well aware that the tougher tests will come when the campaign resumes next season.
The Republic skipper said: “We know people came here expecting to see some goals – we would have loved that ourselves.
“It would have been great to score early and then get a second to put the game beyond them. We didn’t do that.
“We understand that pressure comes with the job and people won’t be very happy with the performance.
“But we’ve got 10 points from 12 and that’s how we look at it as professionals. The manager is happy with our points on the board.
“We’ve got some big games coming up and that’s where we’ll be tested. We went to Denmark and tried to play on the front foot.
“They played around us at times because they’ve got some quality, but I think sometimes it probably suits us playing against the bigger teams.”
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) June 10, 2019
The early fixture list was kind to Ireland with the double-header against Gibraltar coming either side of their home clash with Georgia and a trip to Denmark which was always going to prove the most taxing appointment of the four.
Manager Mick McCarthy freely admits they would happily have settled for 10 points from the 12 available in advance, and there have been elements of the campaign to date other than the tangible return which have pleased him.
However, with Nations League semi-finalists Switzerland heading for Dublin in September before the Swiss and the Georgians host Ireland the following month and old enemy the Danes bring down the curtain on the qualification process, there is room for significant improvement.
Coleman said: “We can only deal with what’s in front of us.
“We know we’ve got some very tough games coming up and they’re going to be the deciding games. We’ve got a bit of a headstart.
“Hopefully we can perform well, play on the front foot and make it difficult for them [Switzerland]. I don’t think they’ll want to play us either, so it’ll be interesting in September.”
If the expectation was that the Republic would sweep Gibraltar aside after fighting back to snatch a point in Copenhagen three days earlier, that notion was to prove overly optimistic as they dominated possession, but lacked the craft to counteract the visitors’ obstinacy.
They eventually secured the points courtesy of Joseph Chipolina’s unfortunate first-half own goal and substitute Robbie Brady’s last-gasp header, but the win was far from convincing.
Coleman said: “We probably could have been better, everyone knows that, but credit to Gibraltar, their manager and their players because they’ve improved massively in a couple of years.”
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