Shane Long says it is “all or nothing” for the Republic of Ireland as they go into their final Euro 2016 group match against Italy needing a win to have a chance of progression.
Long was denied a penalty in a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday, a decision that could have changed the whole course of the Ireland’s campaign.
Ireland were on the attack when the Southampton striker appeared to take a boot in the face as he and defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld challenged for Robbie Brady’s inviting free-kick inside the Belgium penalty area.
Referee Cuneyt Cakir was unmoved as Long went to ground holding his head, convinced the official could only point to the spot.
Worse was to follow when the Belgians broke at pace and Romelu Lukaku fired them into a 48th-minute lead with a curling strike from the edge of the area.
Speaking after the match, Long said: “I can’t really say what I really want to say because I’ll probably get myself in trouble.
“It’s just disappointing. Anywhere else on the pitch you might get a free-kick. The fact that they broke and scored as well makes it a little bit harder to take.
“He [the referee] obviously thought there was nothing there. He must have thought I was diving or something. I can’t really say what he was thinking because the pictures speak for themselves.”
Republic boss Martin O’Neill later admitted that incident could have been pivotal in the game as a chance for his side to take the lead was denied them before the dose was doubled by Lukaku’s strike.
In the event, Belgium ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with Axel Witsel extending their lead with 61 minutes gone before Lukaku helped himself to a second 20 minutes from time.
They now face the task of having to beat Italy, who have already guaranteed top spot in Group E with two wins out of two, in their final game in Lille on Wednesday night if they are to stand a chance of progressing.
“We’ll move on,” said Long. “It’s a tough result to take at the moment but we’ll approach this Italy game now and we need to win.
“It’s all or nothing at this stage. I think we can beat them. We’ve got a good record against the big teams – obviously not today.
“We’ve got a good history against Italy as well and hopefully they rest a few players. We will go out and try to cause an upset. It would be amazing to go through after beating Italy on four points.
“That’s what we have to aim for – nothing less will do.”