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5 key talking points as the Republic of Ireland prepare to face Portugal

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The former Manchester United and Ireland defender, who took charge of March’s friendlies against Belgium and Switzerland, will hope to build upon last week’s 2-1 win over Hungary when he sends his team into battle with Cristiano Ronaldo and company in Aveiro.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game.

Back to the future

Stephen Kenny’s vision during his time in charge of Ireland lived and ultimately died on his determination to play an attacking brand of football, a policy which yielded just six wins in 29 competitive fixtures. O’Shea, as befits a man who won 118 caps for his country as a redoubtable defender, many of them under the intensely pragmatic Giovanni Trapattoni, has made his team more difficult to beat during a three-game reign which has encompassed one draw, one defeat and one win with just two goals conceded.

Small steps

If the Republic lacked defensive solidity during much of Kenny’s time at the helm, creativity dwindled as the end approached. Finding the balance between defence an attack will be one of the main challenges for his long-term successor, but Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone showed flashes in the victory over Hungary, in which his side were second-best for long periods, that he could supply some of the invention and forward thrust they will require to prosper, although the challenge will be even greater in Aveiro.

Fronting up

Troy Parrott scored against Hungary (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland had failed to score in five of the eight games they had played before they met the Hungarians and with Evan Ferguson and Chiedozie Ogbene unavailable this month, are without two of their most potent weapons. However, Troy Parrott stepped up with a late winner against Hungary after Adam Idah had opened the scoring, and Leicester’s Tom Cannon will hope for a debut and a chance to stake his claim in Portugal.

Familiar face

Cristiano Ronaldo may be a household name around the world, but the 39-year-old is particularly familiar to O’Shea. The pair spent six seasons together at Manchester United before the Portugal superstar’s £80million departure for Real Madrid, winning the Champions League, three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups together.

What might have been

Ireland too have memories of Ronaldo, but not as fond as those of their interim boss. They travelled to Faro for a World Cup qualifier in September 2021 and led through John Egan’s first-half header with just a minute of normal time to play. It was then that Ronaldo, who had earlier seen a penalty saved by Gavin Bazunu, chose to make his mark, levelling with a record 110th goal in international football before securing victory deep into stoppage time with his 111th.

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