O’Shea looking for some home comforts
The defender knows Ireland need to start winning games at the Aviva
John O’Shea’s looks slightly weather beaten by the time he arrives in from training at Malahide – the wind has been sweeping through the squad’s knockaround game to the extent that today’s session has been shifted to Lansdowne Road – but the defender, who is likely to captain the team tomorrow in the absence of Robbie Keane, is in buoyant form after Friday’s fine performance and result away from home.
The mood, he says, is “generally positive” but, he adds “also cautious because we know there’s a big job to be done yet.”
There’s no disputing that. Ireland’s record of avoiding defeat on the road remains exceptional but at home, where they need to be winning on a consistent basis, it’s a different story with Macedonia the highest ranked side to be beaten there in a qualifier since Giovanni Trapattoni took charge.
“I’d love to tell you,” says the Sunderland player when asked why it is that the players have failed, in the game’s parlance, to make the place a fortress, “but fingers crossed we sort it out on Tuesday night.
“It’s down to ourselves, though, and if we can transfer the performances away from home into the Aviva games then we will be in a very strong position.”
Certainly the basics seemed to be falling into place on Friday with O’Shea playing a key role in the containment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the defence doing well generally against a side that had scored 10 goals in its previous three outings – against Germany, Argentina and England.
Adding a more cutting attacking edge while maintaining that defensive resilience is the challenge now and while the 31-year-old acknowledges that further improvement is required, he believes that Stockholm provides a solid foundation for a run of home games which, if won, could put the Irish in a very strong position towards the top of Group C.
“Yeah, when you come home from a tough away game with a point and have a home game, it makes for a confident team. It’s in our own hands although we’re not taking Austria lightly – they have very talented players. But if we’re focused and concentrated like we were the other night then we should be okay.”
Quite how this game pans out remains to be seen with a great deal, he suggests, depending on how the visitors set about their task.
“It will be interesting to see the Austrians’ approach,” he says: “Will they sit back or have a go at us? I think that will dictate things to a certain extent but we just have to worry about ourselves initially and hopefully get the crowd going. “We have to be a bit more clinical. Our final pass the other night . . . we got ourselves into a couple of great positions, whether it was a pass over-hit or player not picked out, that’s something we will have to do better in this game to get the goals.”
Having scored six against the Faroes, Austria are likely to fancy their chances of taking something and despite being ranked almost 40 places below Ireland in the Fifa ladder, O’Shea sees them as a serious threat.
“They’ll be thinking they’re kind of the forgotten team behind Ireland and Sweden for the second place,” he says, “but they’re a very good outfit with experienced players plus some good young lads. We’ll be going through the video this evening, tomorrow and Tuesday morning as well, so we’ll have our homework done but we’ll need to get about Austria like we did Sweden in terms of the pressing game and the shutting down. The team was very good as a cohesive unit the other night and we need to take that forward into Tuesday.”
The back four, in particular, returned from Sweden with their collective reputation enhanced. Surrounded now by much younger team-mates, O’Shea led by example but Ciarán Clark continued to grow into his role while Marc Wilson and Seamus Coleman looked remarkably at ease given their relative inexperience.
“Friday night can only help,” says O’Shea before adding, “the younger players who played can only gain confidence from the match. Ledge and Darren (O’Dea) have been fantastic when asked to do the job but Clarky’s come in and he’s going to go from strength to strength because I know the type of character he is.”
The full backs did well too although some of the credit, he says, should also go to the likes of Paul Green and James McCarthy whose work in midfield allowed them more freedom to venture forward.
“Greeny, in particular was given the role of, not filling in at full-back, but just gliding across to the left and right and he did it very well. He was able to snuff out a lot of their threats. Thankfully, they didn’t have a lot of counter-attacks because we were able to snuff them out quite early. So the tactics worked quite well.”
“That was a big, big game but we have to have the same response for this one