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Ireland's Portugal Performance Will Count For Little If They Can't Follow It Up Against Azerbaijan

Ireland's Portugal Performance Will Count For Little If They Can't Follow It Up Against Azerbaijan
By Gary Connaughton
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So close but yet so far from a famous result for Ireland in Portugal.

It was a game that very few gave Ireland any chance of securing a result in, and for good reason. Ireland have not won a competitive fixture since June 2019, while they had also struggled greatly to get any run of results under new manager Stephen Kenny. On the other hand, the Portuguese possess one of the most talented squads in world football.

The game didn't play out in that manner.

Ireland were the better side for much of the first half and were full value for their 1-0 lead at halftime. While Portugal would pile on the pressure as the contest went on, the visitors could well have had a penalty after what looked like a fairly obvious foul on Aaron Connolly in the box.

We all know what happened next. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two late goals to break Irish hearts.

There were no points to take home from Faro, but this performance gave Ireland something to build on.

That hasn't always been the case during the Stephen Kenny era. Despite some flashes over the last 12 months, we have not too often come away from games overly enthusiastic about the future of Irish football.


This performance should change that. The likes of John Egan, Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy, and Seamus Coleman were all outstanding. That is perhaps to be expected from the team's leaders on such a big night.

What was even more encouraging was the way young players stood up to be counted. Jamie McGrath and Andrew Omobamidele looked like they belonged during their competitive international debuts, while Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly, Josh Cullen, and Dara O'Shea all made contributions despite their inexperience.


The team played with organisation, confidence, and a real purpose. It is a rare sight for Ireland at this level.


For the first time, you could perhaps see what this team will become.

The true fruits of that may not be seen until the next qualifying campaign, but Saturday's fixture against Azerbaijan is the first test.

Lifting yourself for a game against the world's 112th ranked team is perhaps no easy task after having coming so close to beating Portugal. That should be the real test.


These players need to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and recreate this performance against lesser opposition. They have shown they can deliver, now it's time to do so.

Stephen Kenny said after the game that this team was building towards the future.

The players were brilliant, Portugal are brilliant, an exceptional team - we know that. They've got world class players.

We're on a journey, it was soon for us to win away tonight but when you get the opportunity you have to grasp it.

That is without doubt the case. The best way to continue on that journey would be to follow up last night's performance with a convincing win against Azerbaijan. With the supporters finally returning to the Aviva Stadium in numbers, there is no better time to do it.

If three points doesn't come this weekend, all of the good will achieved in the Algarve will likely have been for nought.


Stephen Kenny will be very keen to ensure that does not happen.

SEE ALSO: Cristiano Ronaldo Absolutely Mugged Off RTÉ In Post-Match Interview

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