Jason McAteer 1 BSI

Jason McAteer: Ireland Up Against It In France & Holland Qualifiers

Former Ireland star Jason McAteer believes Ireland are up against it when they play France and Holland in this international break.

The attention of football fans turns to the international stage as this latest international break sees the Republic of Ireland take on two powerhouses of world football.

Stephen Kenny’s men desperately need a result from these next Euro qualifying games as just 3 points from their opening three games leaves the squad struggling for qualification to Euro 2024.

McAteer, who made 52 appearances during his career for the Republic of Ireland, has given his verdict on what lies ahead for the Boys in Green in this qualifying campaign. The former Liverpool star also weighed in on James McClean’s inclusion in the Irish squad and the potential of Ireland’s new starboy Evan Ferguson.

Ireland ‘Up Against It’ With France & Holland

We know the quality that both teams have. It’s always difficult when you start a campaign and you’ve got two of the world’s exceptional teams in the group, you’re always up against it.

Obviously, we had the same thing in 2000 when we were trying to qualify for the World Cup.  We were drawn with Holland and Portugal, obviously littered with big names and big stars, so everyone writes you off right at the beginning of the group.

The pressure then is even greater, so they’ve just got to try and dig in. They’ve not put themselves in a very good position going into these two really important games because they’ve only won one of the three games they’ve had in the group so it’s an uphill task for Stephen Kenny and his boys. The quality that they are coming against, it’s going to be even more difficult.

McClean Inclusion In Squad Right Call

James is included in the squad because he offers experience.

I understand what Stephen was trying to do when he came in as Ireland manager, he felt he needed to do his, which was fine. He felt he needed to go younger to develop a squad getting together, a bit like what Mick did really.

Unfortunately, the difference there is Mick was picking from a pool of players playing in the Premier League, where Stephen is now looking into League One, the Championship, the odd League Two player.

It’s a catch 22 – he’s trying to give him experience, but at the highest level, the gap is just too big. So I do feel for him, but he does need experience around the squad. You do need the likes of James McClean and it doesn’t matter where he’s playing.

The experience comes in the training sessions and in the dressing room and around the hotel, when they’re sitting on the bus and they’re nervous. James is probably talking to the younger players, in the dressing room where he’s giving little bit of advice and experience on how to handle the nerves.

That’s, knowledge you can’t buy. That’s only something that’s given to you by experience. So, I think his inclusion is a little bit more than just playing 90 minutes of football. There’s a lot more to it. I think it’s a good inclusion.

Evan Ferguson A Missed Opportunity For Premier League Giants

I know Brighton have sold a few of their players in the last 12 months in a couple of windows. I understand that but what I don’t understand is how no one’s gone for him.

I mean, Højlund coming to Manchester United from Atalanta at £70 million, who has yet to prove himself on any stage in all honesty. You’ve got Osimhen valued at £120million, and he had a fantastic season with Napoli. But Ferguson for me has shown enough quality over the last 12 months where he warrants a move.

I don’t want to be disrespectful to Brighton, but I’ve no idea why no one took a chance on him now. I think he would have been perfect for Manchester United and a lot of clubs, the likes of Tottenham, you looked at the teams around they were looking for strikers. How he’s not moved from Brighton is beyond me.

He’s got every attribute to be a top-class striker. He showed it over the weekend. He can handle any stage.

Newcastle had one of the best defensive records last year. He tore them apart at the weekend scoring his hat-trick. He seems to be able to handle the pressure. I don’t know whether that’s the Irish in him where he’s been brought up that way and he can just absorb it and get on with it.

He doesn’t seem to be affected. He’s had a really good 18 months and De Zerbi is a fantastic coach. I’ve no idea why no one’s took a punt on him. But it’s Brighton’’s gain.

But for Evan Ferguson and Liverpool? Maybe it’s not the right time. Tottenham – absolutely with Harry Kane moving out. With Man United, absolutely desperate for a striker. They’ve gone for a punt on Højlund.

Chelsea, you know, with everything that Chelsea have spent, I still look and go wonder if Jackson is the right fit? Nkunku plays left, Lukaku is out the club now. He would have been perfect for Chelsea, someone to work under Pochettino

I’m just baffled that no one’s taken a punt on him but maybe not Liverpool because I think they’ve got enough to be honest in that top area.

‘Evan Ferguson has a bit of everything’

He’s a big lad, but De Zerbi doesn’t want the ball pumped up to him which is probably what you’d think would be the natural thing they would do with it. He can play the way he is facing, he runs the channels, has it into his feet.

He’s not frightened for a physical challenge, he’ll have the ball into him. His progression has been quick but he’s answered the questions. He’s answered the questions with his performances and now goals. And yeah, I think he’d be the next one out of Brighton.

Ireland’s situation in Euros qualifying is desperate

It’s a desperate situation for Ireland at the minute. As good as Ireland’s performance was against France in the first game, they still got beat and it leaves us in a very precarious position right now.

The Greece game really hurt those because that would have given us an opportunity to hopefully try and get something out of these two games.

If you’re asking me where will I get something out of these two games, I’m fearful for anything. But you know, if you look at the Dutch at the minute they’ve only won one in the last five. You could argue that the four games they were defeated in was Italy, Croatia, France and Argentina, but they are a little bit porous.

I think they conceded 13 goals in those games so there might be the odd opportunity against the Dutch, but the squad is still littered with quality players and Koeman will have them set up to win the game. He won’t be looking to nick anything from Ireland, he will be aiming to win the game at the Aviva.

Being optimistic it’s at the Aviva. You know. Ferguson is in good form and hopefully, hopefully, it can be another 2001.

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