Andrews hoping for points, not souvenirs
GDYNIA, Poland - Agence France-Presse
Keith Andrews.Keith Andrews has been inundated with good luck texts and video clips of Ireland’s traveling fans - but he insists it will all mean nothing if the team fail to qualify from Group C.
The 31-year-old midfielder, currently without a club after finishing the season at English Premier League side West Brom, has been told to soak up the experience of his first major tournament.
But while the Dubliner has enjoyed the build up in Dublin, Italy and Hungary, he says his Polish experience must come with success, not souvenirs.
“The preparations have been fantastic, we had a week in Portmarnock (Dublin), and then we went to Montecatini, where the facilities were fantastic,” said Andrews, who made his international debut in 2008.
“Now we’re in Poland and it’s exciting, hopefully we can take that into the game as it’s all building towards that. Everyone is itching for it.
“Walking out for training with 10-12,000 people, you’re just thinking this is unbelievable. It’s fantastic.
I’ve come a long way in the last few years so I’m just trying to take it all in.
“Family members and friends have been texting to say ‘take it all in and really enjoy it’. “But you just want the game to come and I won’t enjoy it if I don’t get out of the group. I hope we do.”
Croatia is first up for Ireland at Poznan’s Municipal Stadium, and while Slaven Bilic’s squad have been hit with some injuries in the build up to the tournament, they remain a daunting opponent.
Ireland drew 0-0 with Croatia the last time they met, in Dublin last year, and allied to the number of Croats playing in the Premier League, the two sides know each other quite well.
Andrews, as part of Ireland’s two-man central midfield, will face a tough task against the fluid motion of Bilic’s side, and the 31-year-old knows he’s in for a tough night against Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and co.
“We know all about them, we played against them last year and we watched the game that they played against Norway when we were in Montecatini last week,” Andrews revealed.
“We’ve been watching them, seen clips of them, gone over information on them so we’re fully aware of their strengths.
“They’re a fine side and we’re under no illusions...it’s going to be a tough game.
“I don’t have any particular brief on Modric.
“I think over the next few days it’ll be cranked up in terms of what we’re expected to do.
“But he’s one of their main players, their playmaker, if you like, and we’ll have to have a good look at him because he’s a fantastic player.
“I faced him as a right-back, actually, when he was left wing for Spurs. I have to be honest, I didn’t enjoy that afternoon.
“Right-back isn’t my favorite position but he’s moved into the centre of midfield over the last few years.
“He’s a fantastic player and, if you give him time and space on the ball, he can hurt you.” Bilic has publicly admitted that Croatia are targeting three points from Sunday’s game, while striker Eduardo believes his side will qualify with victory over Ireland and a draw against Italy.
There is no sense of such open confidence from Ireland’s squad members, with Andrews keen to talk up the opposition, rather than make any arrogant claims ahead of kick off.
“There’s a lot of talk in the press,” he said “Both managers do their bits and bobs and stuff maybe gets lost in translation to a degree.
“I’m not entirely sure who fears who most. For both teams, it’s a massive game.
“Spain are red-hot favourites to win the group and ourselves, Italy and Croatia are probably vying for second spot, if we’re all being honest.”