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Published: 14:05 | 20/6/16

Keane calls for focus ahead of Italy clash

Wants players to be more streetwise

Roy Keane has called for focus and urged the Republic of Ireland players to be more streetwise when they take on Italy in Lille on Wednesday.

The assistant manager wants his players to do whatever it takes to get the result they need against the Italians who have already qualified for the knock-out stages.

He said he doesn't want to see a repeat of the Belgium game last Saturday where opposition players were allowed to move the ball around without challenges being made.

Asked what he would like to see happening in similar circumstances on Wednesday, Keane said: "My advice would be, yeah, take him out.

"You saw Italy doing that against Belgium, a player got a yellow card on the half-way line, he jumped all over someone as Belgium were breaking and kicked the ball out of play.

"You to back to the Italians, you need to be streetwise in this game, we're not here to make friends, the fans are doing that.

"From the players' point of view, if you smell danger, if you can hold the player up and win the ball then fantastic.

"But if you think 'we're in trouble here' then yeah, you do whatever you can to try and get the right result. If that's fouling, then you foul. It's not a crime, you'll get a yellow card, maybe a red card, but your team might win, we all make sacrifices. What do you think I would do?".

Keane believes that the Irish squad has the strength of character to bounce back from Saturday's defeat to Belgium and get themselves ready for the Italy game.

"This group of players has had disappointments over the last year or two, don't think for one minute that it's new to us, we have had setbacks as a group," he added.

"I have to take my hat off to this group of players as they have bounced back, it was only a year ago that people were not expecting us to qualify but that's the name of the game, the other day when they had a few plaudits after a good performance against Sweden we said the same thing, you have to move on quickly in this game, whether it's the highs or lows.

"It's easier said that done and we've had a huge disappointment against Belgium, but I can't wait for the game on Wednesday, it's part of life that you get ready for the next challenge," added Keane, who has so far been impressed with Wednesday's opponents.

"The Italians were, to me, always favourites to top the group, this idea that it was a surprise they won their first game against Belgium, no.

"With the players they have, huge experience, players with a lot of trophies under their belt, this suits them down to the ground. They have good options and no doubt they will rotate a few players, I think their manager has said that so it's a huge challenge for our players, but one they should look forward to."

By: Kieran O'Daly

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