LILLE • Ireland will need to produce a similar performance to the one that helped them beat Italy on Wednesday if they are to have any chance of knocking out hosts France in the last 16, Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said.
"We need a performance like tonight again to stand a chance," he told a news conference, after his side's 1-0 win over Italy in their final Group E game helped them reach the knockout stages of a European Championship for the first time.
The win set Ireland up for a rematch with the French, seven years on from the infamous Thierry Henry hand-ball that knocked them out in a World Cup qualifying play-off.
O'Neill, who has enjoyed some great successes both as a player and a manager, labelled the victory as one of the finest of his career and joked that a last-16 tie with the French would be "easy".
"I really don't want to think that this is the end for us... We have to find the energy again from somewhere," said O'Neill, whose side will have had three days fewer than the French to prepare for Sunday's match in Lyon.
"This is tournament football. Players have come in and played their third game in nine days, but it's the same for a lot of other sides."
Robbie Brady struck with just five minutes remaining as Ireland claimed a dramatic win.
Ireland had to win the match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy against an Italian side already assured of first place in Group E and got the victory they needed to go through as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Brady, who headed the 85th-minute winner from a Wes Hoolahan cross, was positive about Ireland's chances in the next round.
"If we can stick together and click, we can hurt anybody," said the Norwich City player, who would have merited his Man of the Match award even without his goal. "I don't think we have anything to fear and I think we can go as far as we allow ourselves in this tournament."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE