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Zack Elbouzedi on representing his country

12 April 2020

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Speaking exclusively to Goal, Zack talks about his time with the Republic of Ireland U21 set up as they edge closer to qualifying for the European Championships.

Elbouzedi has played all seven of Ireland's U21 European Championship qualifiers and also started all of the group games at the Toulon Tournament before injury sadly side-lined him for the knockout stage.

Stephen Kenny, who has recently been appointed manager of the Irish first team, managed Zack at U21 level. He has played a key part in his development so far.

Zack on Kenny, "He's so passionate. You can just tell that he eats, sleeps and breathes football.”

"He's just got that infectious energy. You can tell that every day you work with him that there's just no place he'd rather be. He puts that belief in you that you're as good as any team and that you can compete with the best teams.”

"When you have confidence from your manager, as a winger, you have that freedom to express yourself and make mistakes and that's when your performances start getting better. He's definitely improved me as a player."

Former Ireland international and current Ireland U18 manager Andy Reid claims the U21s are the best group of young players to ever come through for Ireland, perhaps even more talented than Brian Kerr's U16 and U18 sides which lifted their respective European Championship trophies.

Elbouzedi says the players are not affected by the pressure of being named Ireland's golden generation, instead stating that Kenny's management has already instilled the belief in the squad that they can take on and beat any team in the world.

Zack added, "We just take it all in our stride. No one really feels that pressure. Since the first day that Stephen came in, he said that we wanted to qualify and we didn't want to settle for being second-best so since the first day we've had that expectation for ourselves that we want to be the best we can be. When you see other people talking about it, it doesn't really have an influence on us because that's the way we wanted to be from the start.”

"I didn't play in the Brazil game [at Toulon], but the Mexico team that I played were up there with one of the best teams that I've faced. I watched the Brazil game and they were incredible. They're probably the best team at that age in the world and the lads gave a good account of themselves. When you go on and play other teams, with all the respect, they're not going to be better than Brazil.”

"We know that we put it up to them so we have nothing to fear when we go out to play the likes of Italy. When you're nervous you might be starstruck by the players they have, but because we've played the likes of Brazil and we've put in good performances and got good results, we know we can compete against anyone."

The winger has scored twice in the qualifying campaign so far, netting the winner against Armenia as well as Ireland's fourth against Sweden after Idah and Parrott had both found the net in a 4-1 victory. You can view the goals from that game HERE.

Elbouzedi has greatly enjoyed playing in support of Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly and believes that trio has what it takes to make it to the very top.

"They're different players but they're all goalscorers," Elbouzedi explained. "They've all scored goals at any level they've been at. They're good lads with good attitudes and if they keep going and keep progressing gradually, then the world is their oyster. People need to be careful putting so much pressure on them, they're only young lads and still only finding their way in the game. The potential is there to be great players."

You can read the full interview with Goal HERE.

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