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Published: 11:42 | 15/5/16

Vertonghen wary of Ireland threat

Belgium face Ireland in Bordeaux on 18 June

Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen says he would have preferred not to have drawn the Republic of Ireland at this summer's European Championships.

Ireland face The Red Devils in Bordeaux in the second Group E match on 18 June, and the Tottenham centre-half admits that Martin O'Neill's side will provide a tough physical test for him and defensive partner Toby Alderweireld at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.

"They are, physically, one of the stronger teams," Vertonghen told the Sunday Independent.

"But we have some physical strength too, so we will compete with them."

The 29-year-old is relishing the prospect of taking on Southampton striker Shane Long and Stoke forward Jon Walters, who both drew Premier League blanks against Tottenham this season.

"I've had some very hard games against both of them, both very strong and good players," he said.

"It's another tough side. We have to be on top of our game every single time. So many of them play in the Premier League and I see them as a very strong team.

"I wish they were not in our group!"

Ireland are the outsiders to qualify out of a group that also contains Italy and Sweden, but O'Neill has urged his players to seize the opportunity to shine on the international stage.

"Our players should actually think 'this is my tournament, this is a chance for me'. Not to the extent of hogging the ball and the limelight but actually taking it upon yourself, saying 'I'm going to do something here'," the former Aston Villa, Celtic and Sunderland boss said.

"Why can Shane Long not do that with his confidence as high as it's ever been in his career? Or why should Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan not do great in the competition?

"Why should Jon Walters not continue his great form for us? Or why should James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman not think this could be the competition that puts them on the international landmark? Go for it, I'd say."

"There are enough examples in the last four or five months, if not in the last couple of weeks with other teams, as to why you should be driving on, regardless of what you have."

Ireland face Sweden in their first match of Euro 2016 at the Stade de France on 13 June, and finish their Group E campaign against Italy in Lille on 22 June.

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