Portugal v Republic of Ireland: All you need to know

James Fenton James Fenton | 06-11 08:15


It's expected to be sunny in the west-coast city on Tuesday, with highs of 22 degrees. Pack a jumper if you're travelling, as a moderate breeze is expected in the evening.


If an international season is viewed as running from August to June, then most people involved with Irish football will be glad to see the back of 2023/24.

Supporters are sick of the prolonged manager search, the FAI are fed-up of providing empty updates on said search, and the Republic of Ireland players and staff are likely looking forward to getting this meaningless international window over and done with.

Last week's win over Hungary and Tuesday's encounter with Portugal would be a lot more meaningful if the man in the Ireland dugout could take any learnings into the next UEFA Nations League campaign, which begins in September.

As it is, the match will see John O'Shea take charge of Ireland for the fourth time, and it speaks volumes that neither he, nor anyone else, knows if this will be his last game at the helm.

Looming on the horizon in the autumn is a group containing England, Greece and Finland, and this June window would have been the perfect opportunity for O'Shea, Slaven Bilic, Anthony Hudson or insert-candidate's-name-here, to analyse the squad and try out some new ideas before the more serious stuff begins.

Instead, O'Shea has taken the pragmatic approach in search of results that might help him get the permanent gig. See his starting line-up against Hungary, in which he began with four over-30s in a five-man backline, hoping experience would see Ireland through, only to haul two of them off at half time.

At the very least, the Waterford man has overseen the return of something resembling a feel-good factor, with Troy Parrott's last-gasp winner against the Hungarians reminding supporters that international football can still get you to leap to your feet, if you hadn't already made a dash for the DART home.

O'Shea's record now reads won one, drew one, and lost one, and another positive result against the side ranked sixth in the world could be what finally tips the balance in his favour, when the FAI get around to making a decision on who should be appointed as Stephen Kenny's permanent successor.

Former Manchester United team mates Ronaldo and O'Shea will be reunited on Tuesday night


Or so the legend goes.

On 6 August 2003, a 17-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo ran rings around O'Shea in a pre-season friendly between Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United.

While United were among a number of teams that had been watching the prodigious winger closely, that performance is said to have clicked Alex Ferguson into gear and just days later, Ronaldo was signing on the dotted line with the then-Premier League champions.

The rest, as they say, is football history, and had it not been for a performance that O'Shea has light-heartedly put down to jetlag, Ronaldo may never have graced the Old Trafford stage that would become a launchpad for his glittering career.

Now their paths cross again 21 years later, and this time Ronaldo could stand in the way of O'Shea's own career progression, that is from his role of interim Ireland manager to permanent one.

During his six-year first spell at United, Ronaldo played in more matches alongside O'Shea (215) than any other Red Devils team-mate, with the exception of Rio Ferdinand, and speaking at Ireland's Portuguese base, O'Shea reflected on their time in the Old Trafford dressing room together.

"Look, we were fully aware of his talent, obviously, that night in Lisbon," said O'Shea.

"But the player that arrived into Old Trafford, into Carrington, I've mentioned before many times, his dedication in terms of improving his technique every week, every day.

"There was some tough challenges, not only in terms of the opposition he was facing, but also in the training matches. We were making him fully prepared for what the Premier League was going to be, the tests he was going to have to face.

"It wasn’t a surprise to me to see what he’s gone on to do because we saw how special a player he was very early."

Ronaldo (l) celebrates scoring a late goal against Ireland in 2021


At the 2022 World Cup, Ronaldo learned, along with the rest of us, that his place in the Portugal starting XI is no longer guaranteed.

In Roberto Martinez's squad for Euro 2024, the 39-year-old is surrounded by a wealth of younger attackers, with Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Goncalo Ramos standing out amongst a ludicrously-talented bunch.

After dusting off the humiliation of being dropped in Qatar, Ronaldo started every game during the qualifying campaign, scoring 10 goals as Portugal finished with a 100% win record from their 10 games.

After that though, Portugal's form in 2024 has been ropey, as they have lost two of their four friendlies, most recently at home to Croatia on Saturday night.

Martinez's side are heading into a Euro 2024 group that contains Turkey, Georgia and Czech Republic, and the game against Ireland presents the final opportunity for a tune-up job ahead of their opener against the Czechs on 18 June.

Despite this, the result arguably matters more to the Spaniard's Irish counterpart, and O'Shea could do with a repeat of the performance Ireland put together in Faro back in September 2021.

Kenny's side led for the entire second half of that 2022 World Cup qualifier, only for O'Shea's old mucker Ronaldo to head in two late goals to turn the result around.

"Yeah, obviously to concede two late goals against an opposition as good as Portugal was a tough one to take," said Ireland midfielder Josh Cullen ahead of the rematch.

"We played really well and there are certainly lessons we can learn from that, we were penned back in during the second-half and sometimes you're able to hang on in there and get the result.

"When the opposition have got players the quality of Portugal have, you could get punished at any opportunity. Definitely learned some lessons from that game and hopefully we build on what was a positive performance."

If Ronaldo is on the pitch, perhaps he will remember that first meeting with O'Shea back in 2003, and go easy on the former defender.

Then again, as he sets his sights on 1,000 career goals, he will surely relish coming up against a creaky Irish defence on Tuesday night.

Josh Cullen speaks to the media ahead of the game


As he seeks the result that may earn him the job of his dreams, O'Shea is unlikely to take too many risks.

After a poor first-half performance against Hungary, Shane Duffy could make way for Jake O'Brien to come for his first start in a green shirt.

Adam Idah and Sammie Szmodics showed signs of a strong partnership last week, but O'Shea may be tempted to try Parrott from the start, on the back of his recent goalscoring form for club and country.

Ireland squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Max O'Leary (Bristol City), David Harrington (Fleetwood Town).

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Shane Duffy (Norwich City), Dara O'Shea (Burnley), Jake O'Brien (Lyon), Liam Scales (Celtic), Robbie Brady (Preston North End), Enda Stevens (Stoke City).

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Finn Azaz (Middlesbrough), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Callum O'Dowda (Cardiff City), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Mikey Johnston (West Bromwich Albion, on loan from Celtic).

Forwards: Sammie Szmodics (Blackburn Rovers), Adam Idah (Celtic, on loan from Norwich City), Troy Parrott (Excelsior, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Obafemi (Millwall, on loan from Burnley), Tom Cannon (Leicester City).

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