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Martin O'Neill urges Ireland to be positive ahead of Euro 2016

O'Neill talking up Ireland's Euro 2016 ambitions
O'Neill talking up Ireland's Euro 2016 ambitions

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has told his players they have to believe they can compete with the best if they are to prosper at next month's Euro 2016 finals.

Ireland were pegged back to draw 1-1 with Holland in their penultimate warm-up game in Dublin on Friday night, but having beaten world champions Germany during qualification, O'Neill insists they have cause for optimism as they prepare to face Sweden, Belgium and Italy.

He said: "It's not a case of whether we can, we just have to, we have to. It has to be our mindset, it has to be that, that we have to go into those games thinking that we can compete. Otherwise we might as well stay at home.

"I know it doesn't last forever, but if you can't take some self-confidence and self-belief out of beating Germany, I don't think you are ever going to do it.

"I genuinely believe that that result, even though we played a couple of days later against Poland, I actually think that result set us up for the two games against Bosnia.

"We have qualified now. Qualification was great, but it happened in November. Let us go again, and we have to do it. I can't predict anything out there other than putting heart and soul into the games.

"You could see out there tonight quality in the Dutch side. They haven't made it, but that's a surprise to everyone in Europe that they didn't make it, but they do have quality players, so we have to find a way to try to beat that.

"And we have one or two very decent players ourselves who really probably have to play at their optimum for us to make an impact, but we can do it."

Ireland came within five minutes of victory courtesy of Shane Long's first-half strike after he pounced on the loose ball when keeper Jasper Cillessen could only parry John O'Shea's header, and they might have added to their tally after the break.

However, they did not and that left the door open for the Dutch to snatch a point on a night when they enjoyed more than their fair share of possession with substitute Luke de Jong heading home an 85th-minute equaliser.

O'Neill said: "I was very pleased. I thought we did fine. I thought we started off not too badly. The Dutch had good possession of the ball, which was actually very good for us because we had to play without it for a little while and I thought that might happen.

"Then we scored the goal, which obviously gave us a big lift. I thought we played fine, we kept possession of the ball reasonably well after that. Half-time arrived and probably on reflection we just about deserved to be in front, perhaps.

"Second half, it was roughly the same sort of pattern again. I was disappointed we conceded, but overall, I was very pleased with it."