Luxembourg up their game with a little bout of pre-match stereotyping

Stephen Kenny doesn’t take the bait after Luxembourg boss’ “British style” jab

Let the stereotyping wars commence. Did you know that this tiny Grand Duchy is the safest place on earth? Or that their steel manufacturing industry ensures that the entire population of 600,000 is wealthy beyond belief?

Luxembourg manager Luc Holtz adopted an old but familiar line when it came to describing the plucky Oirish during his eve of match press conference. If it went on any longer he'd have us humming 'A Nation Once Again'. Out of the EU and back in with BoJo.

The British trope, and how the two football cultures are intertwined, which is true, got another airing with Holtz falling just short of mentioning Guinness and Riverdance.

The questions, naturally enough, were leading. It began around Luxembourg’s 1-0 win in Dublin last March and finished with the 52-year-old informing everyone that boot and bollick was back on the menu as a result of that catastrophe.


Evidently, Stephen Kenny’s programme notes did not reach Holtz, nor did the actual footage of the past few games.

Now, the 1990s Luxembourg midfielder might have been acting the maggot during a sterile media briefing made worse by the interminable translation process (before he answered in competent English).

“In the last matches [Ireland] played more with the style that they played for the last 100 years,” said Holtz, “it was a more British style, this fighting spirit, more long balls in the last few months.

“Sometimes football is strange, sometimes you can be lucky, you can shoot from 20 metres and sometimes have a situation where you score, I think Ireland is in good shape.”

The travelling press pack pursued the high insult of being lumped in with a “British style.” And not the modern one. Tell us more, kind sir.

“Of course, you get better results. It’s in the culture of Ireland, that fighting spirit, real contests, high intensity, all of the players play in the Premier League or Championship so they are used to playing high-intensity matches.”

That alone tees up Anderlecht's Josh Cullen to win man of the match.

Holtz went so far as to suggest Luxembourg’s 2014 draw with Italy, a friendly in Perugia, and a scoreless World Cup qualifier draw away to France in 2017 were just as important, if not more valuable, than beating the Irish.

To be fair, he was trying to play down the significance of a result while being peppered with questions about said result. But, you know, still.

"The Ireland game was very important for us but we don't have to consider it the game that changed our mentality," said Maxime Chanot, the New York City FC defender. "It is important to understand the hard work we did for the previous four or five years.

“The win was important for our confidence but not a game that made us think that we’ve changed something.

“To be honest, after we won the game, and I don’t want to show too much confidence but we knew before the game that we had the power to score and ability to win the game.

“I don’t want you to think that there’s a lack of humility.”

Too late Maxime, far too late.

Two hours later, not long after the All Blacks match ended in Dublin, Holtz's opinion was relayed to Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, who gave a wry smile before dismissing the 'British theory.'

“I don’t really have any reaction. Anyone can say anything. I have no reaction to that.”

But is it accurate?

“It’s certainly not accurate.”

Is it fair comment?

“Anyone can make their own judgments, but I have no reason to comment on that.”

Luxembourg may not realise what has happened inside Kenny’s camp these past eight months, or perhaps they believe they are a better team. Only one way to find out.

“We don’t look at creativity that is just something for the attacking players or the defenders,” said Kenny. “We’re looking for the overall patterns of the team, a cohesive quality throughout the team.

“That’s what you’re looking to build, for everyone to be comfortable in possession, and key things like adapting your position, between midfielders and defenders and midfielders and forwards, to move off to receive [THE BALL].

“These are all areas where we are working on constantly to improve. These are all areas we’re working on all the time to get better. What the players want when in possession is more options, ideally that’s what a player wants, they want options. And all the best teams, they always seem to have options. And that’s an area we want to continually improve in. We’re getting better. We’ll continue to strive to get better, we’re hungry, there is a tremendous work ethic in the group, a determination to really improve.”