Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Jayson Molumby hailed the ‘unbelievable’ progress made by the Republic of Ireland’s under-21s, as they prepare to face Brazil in the Toulon Tournament semi-finals on Wednesday.
The Irish finished top of their group to set-up a clash with the South Americans, and Molumby expressed his delight at captaining the side to the last four of the competition.
He said, “It’s unbelievable because we had a very hard group with China and Mexico fielding their Olympic teams, as well as Bahrain’s under-21s. We’re a pretty young side with a number of 18- and 19-year-olds, so for us to top the group is a fantastic achievement.
“The manager has given us this winning mentality and a lot of belief, so getting that back into us is massive.
“I came back in for the Luxembourg game before the tournament, and have been captain since then. After being out for so long with an injury, it just shows the crazy highs and lows of football.”
The tournament has certainly provided a high point for the Albion under-23 player, with 4-1 and 1-0 wins over China and Bahrain respectively, likewise a goalless draw against last year’s finalists Mexico sandwiched between those two results.
“We played well and ended up dominating the China game," he added. "They were managed by a very experienced coach in Guus Hiddink, with some players that had played in the Chinese Super League. That made the result even more impressive.
“We were evenly matched in the second game with Mexico, and they got to the final last year with a lot of the same players. To get through that game was good, but we had the better chances and were unlucky not to win the game.
“The Bahrain match was unusual because they were very hard to break down in the first half, and we had a lot of chances to wrap the game up before half time. I missed a penalty myself, which didn’t help our cause, and we needed to dig in. We managed to get the three points though, which was all that mattered.”
Molumby is now relishing the prospect of playing Brazil for the first time and says the side can head into the game without fear.
“It will be our first time playing against them. There have been a lot of new experiences for us at this tournament, playing against an Asian team for the first time and now a South American one. This will only help to develop us in the long run.
“Everyone expects them to be a typical Brazilian team with tricky, fast, powerful and skilful players. We just need to stick to our game plan and we believe we can get something out of the game."