McCarthy rates Reid ready to make step forward

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The Independent Football

The Millwall midfielder Steven Reid has been named in the Republic of Ireland's starting line up for tonight's friendly against Croatia at Lansdowne Road.

The Republic's manager, Mick McCarthy, hands a record 90th cap to the veteran Aston Villa defender Steve Staunton for a game both countries are using in preparations for World Cup games on 1 September. Then, the Republic take on the Netherlands at Lansdowne Road, while on the same day Scotland play host to Croatia.

McCarthy, minus several key players because of injuries, has a new-look attack, with Blackburn Rovers' Damien Duff partnering Robbie Keane, of Leeds United, in attack.

"Steven Reid deserves this chance," McCarthy said. "The lad has the ability and the physical strength to make an immediate impression although it is a huge step up from First Division football to the international level."

Reid's fellow uncapped players, Manchester United's John O'Shea and Crystal Palace's Clinton Morrison – who declared for the Republic in May by virtue of an Irish grandmother – are expected to make their debuts at some stage.

Croatia have the Middlesbrough striker Alen Boksic in attack, partnering Aston Villa's new £6m signing Bosko Balaban after his recent move from Dinamo Zagreb.

"This game is very important for both nations," the Croatia coach, Mirko Jozic, said. "The Republic of Ireland play a similar style to Scotland and this will be invaluable preparation for our big game in Glasgow."

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Croatia, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, tonight): Given (Newcastle United); G Kelly (Leeds United), Dunne (Manchester City), Staunton (Aston Villa), Harte (Leeds United); Reid (Millwall), Roy Keane (Manchester United), Carsley (Coventry), Kennedy (Wolves); Duff (Blackburn), Robbie Keane (Leeds United).

* The Borussia Dortmund striker Jan Koller has been fined for kicking his Czech national team jersey in a World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland in June. The 6ft 7in striker lost his temper on his way to the dressing-room after missing chances and being substituted in the 65th minute.

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