Damian Spellman, PA
Callum Robinson has challenged the Republic of Ireland to ensure they head into their daunting Euro 2024 qualifier against France on the back of a victory.
Ireland had hoped to emerge from their friendly double-header against Norway and Malta with two wins in their final games before competitive fixtures resume in March, but suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Norwegians in Dublin on Thursday evening.
It was the manner, rather than the fact of that setback, which gave cause for concern as Stephen Kenny’s men turned in a toothless first-half display and, although they improved significantly, were made to pay for two defensive lapses.
Asked how important it was to finish off the year with a win in Malta, Cardiff striker Robinson said: “It is important because, when March comes around, we obviously have a massive game. You don’t want to go into them with a loss and not getting a result on Sunday.
“But we know it’s going to be tough again, like every game. We need to recover and hopefully we can get that win out there and go into March in a positive frame of mind.”
Robinson was paired with Swansea frontman Michael Obafemi against Norway, and the fledgling partnership struggled to get going, particularly in an opening 45 minutes during which Ireland struggled to penetrate their deep-sitting opponents.
The former Preston and West Brom player said: “Me and Mikey, we haven’t had the opportunity to play together.
“I think it definitely can work because we’ve got different qualities. He’s quick, strong and gets in behind, and I’m more to feet and in pockets. I like to find people as well as scoring goals.
“We’ve got to play together a lot more for it to work, but second half we definitely combined a little bit and got closer, which helped.”
If the likes of Robinson, Obafemi and Chiedozie Ogbene represent the present for Ireland in attack, spectators at the Aviva Stadium were given a glimpse of the future on Thursday night when 18-year-old Evan Ferguson was handed a senior debut for his country in a late cameo from the bench.
Robinson is aware the Brighton teenager still has a lot to learn, but has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
Congratulations to @Evan_Ferguson9 on making his senior Ireland debut tonight 🇮🇪
The 18-year-old striker has come a long way in such a short period of time 👏#COYBIG | #WeAreOne | #IRLNOR pic.twitter.com/U7nRHFy3ce
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 17, 2022
He said: “I don’t think we’ve got a striker like him. I haven’t seen much of him, two or three days, and I see him in the league now and again.
“It’s tough – he’s 18, he’s got a way to go. There is no pressure. He has got so much that he needs to work on to be that finished article.
“But it’s nice to have him and I think the main thing for him at 18 in the senior squad is it’s an achievement for him and his family.”