MARTIN O’NEILL admitted he did not enjoy last night’s European Championship draw that saw the Republic of Ireland placed in Group E alongside Belgium, Italy and Sweden.

The Irish, who pipped Scotland in the qualifiers, open against the Mikael Lustig’s Swedes on Monday, June 13, before facing the Belgians five days later. They complete their fixtures against the Italians on Wednesday, June 22.

O’Neill, who was in Paris for the ballot for next summer’s Finals in France, said: “I thought I was coming here to enjoy the draw and I’m not so sure that is the case any more.

“When you think about it Belgium are now one of the best sides in the world and a top quality side and Italy should not really be in Pot 2.

“They are two absolutely top-class sides and Sweden have Zlaten Ibrahimovic as well – and they are a sturdy side.

“It couldn’t get tougher. Italy should be in Pot 1 (for the top seeds), they have not dropped down the rankings that much and Sweden are not a one-man team, they were quite strong in qualifying.

“Now we know who we are up against, we can study players individually. It is a bit of a maze, but we’ll get down to plotting something.

“We can take time out to study opposition players so that by the time of the games we know everything about them. There is no reason why we shouldn’t.”

Italy’s coach Antonio Conte added: “Ireland are certainly a team who play with a lot of emotion, who are strong with their team spirit and great intensity. So we have to be careful.”
Martin O’Neill glorious period as Celtic manager is detailed in The Winds of Change, out now from www.cqnbookstore.com


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