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Published: 11:51 | 19/6/16

Ward backs Ireland to shock Italy

Defender ready for challenge

Stephen Ward is backing the Republic of Ireland to shock Italy in their final pool game next Wednesday to qualify for the knock-out stages at Euro 2016.

Despite suffering a 3-0 defeat to Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday, the defender is confident that the squad can turn things around and get the result they need in Lille against an Italian side who have already qualified for the last-16 after successive victories.

“We’ll have to dust ourselves down and give it everything Wednesday because we still have a chance,” he said.

“The lads will leave everything out there and we’ll see where that takes us.

“Whatever happens, whoever goes out there, we’ll give it everything. It’s a tough group but we still feel we can qualify.

“We’ve pulled off big results before, we’ve been down in the dumps and come back strong so hopefully we can do the same again on Wednesday.”

Ward believes that the opening goal just three minutes into the second half was the turning point of the game against Belgium.

“We’ve lost to a quality side but we didn’t help ourselves in terms of the way we’ve conceded the goals," he added.

“I thought we were right in the game. Obviously they had a lot of possession in the first half but I felt we were in the game and if we’d kept it level maybe 15, 20 minutes into the second half, you never know what’s going to happen.

“We knew it was going to be difficult and we knew they’d have a lot of the ball but I thought in the first half our shape was good.

“We minimised them to two or three half-chances, nothing major and we were disappointed in the first half not to make more of some situations we got ourselves into.

“At half-time we were pleased and knew the first goal was goal to be vital. We’re disappointed with the way we conceded it.

“From there it’s difficult. You’re against a team who are good in possession, we gave it a go but we came up short.”

By: Kieran O'Daly

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