Alan Browne has challenged the Republic of Ireland to spoil the Netherlands’ Euro 2024 party as they look to end a disappointing campaign on a high.
The curtain will fall on Ireland’s dismal attempt to make next summer’s finals at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, with automatic qualification long beyond them and only six points from home and away victories over Group B minnows Gibraltar to show for their efforts to date.
There will be little more than pride at stake for Stephen Kenny’s men on a night when victory would assure the Dutch of their ticket to Germany alongside leaders France, but Preston midfielder Browne is determined to make them sweat.
Asked if the chance to put the champagne on ice provided added motivation, the 28-year-old said: “It’s not so much about spoiling their party, but we want to come here and win.
“The lads will be aware that we can play with a bit of freedom, it’s a bit of a free hit for us – which is obviously disappointing to say as a player, but that’s the way it is.
“We want to win the game and spoil their party to an extent, but it’s not a vendetta against them, it’s just as a professional you want to win every game that you play in, and especially at the highest level against one of the best teams in the world, you want to go out and beat them.
“It would mean an awful lot for us to get that result.”
The game seems likely to be the penultimate fixture of Kenny’s reign – his contract is due to expire after Tuesday night’s friendly against New Zealand in Dublin and the clamour for change after an overhaul which has significantly reduced the age profile of the squad, but yielded only six wins in 28 competitive outings, has grown in recent months.
However Kenny, who will have striker Evan Ferguson at his disposal, but not the injured Chiedozie Ogbene, remained bullish as he surveyed the task ahead.
He said: “It’s a fantastic game against Holland. In the history of Irish football, all the great Irish teams of the past, some legendary players, it’s been elusive, the number of big away victories in that period.
“Obviously there have been victories in tournaments, but in terms of qualifiers, beating the major countries has proved elusive, even for the best teams.
“For us it’s a massive challenge to play Holland on the night they can qualify in Amsterdam. It’s a huge, huge challenge and one we must embrace and be positive about.”
Browne for one has enhanced his reputation under Kenny’s watch, scoring important goals against Serbia, Belgium, Scotland and Norway, and he remains convinced that, while it may not be borne out by results, progress has been made.
He said: “I’ve seen a lot of stuff in the media, a lot of criticism, and rightly so in terms of results. It’s been a tough one.
“The group we got, we knew it was an uphill battle right from the start. The teams we got, we were really unfortunate. Any other team would be unfortunate with it as well.
“But that’s what you are up against, the best teams in the world, if you want to succeed you’ve got to beat them.
“In terms of performances, I think we have come a long way.
“Certainly since I first came in, in terms of team performances, we have definitely come a long way, we know that as players and staff. We have been in it together and just come up short in terms of results.”