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Martin O'Neill bullish despite Republic of Ireland's automatic hopes ending

Published 12/10/2015

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is adopting a bullish stance ahead of the Euro 2016 play-offs
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is adopting a bullish stance ahead of the Euro 2016 play-offs

A defiant Martin O'Neill was adopting a bullish stance after seeing the Republic of Ireland's hopes of automatic qualification for the Euro 2016 finals die in Poland.

Robert Lewandowski's 42nd-minute strike - his 15th goal in six games for club and country - sent the Poles to France courtesy of a 2-1 victory and left Ireland facing the lottery of the play-offs, for which they are likely to be unseeded and will have to play the first leg without defender John O'Shea and striker Jonathan Walters through suspension.

However, O''Neill said: "I'm not aware of whether we are going to be seeded or not seeded. I have had a little look at some of the teams that are there and whether it's an advantage or not, I'm not terribly sure.

"I thought beforehand that seeded teams got the advantage of playing away first, then home second, but apparently that's not the case, it's an open draw for that too. I think most of the countries would prefer to play their second game at home, so that's the luck of the draw.

"We are there and whoever we draw, we will be ready for the game."

Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia and Sweden or Denmark look likely to make up the seeds for Sunday's draw with the two-legged ties to be played over November 12, 13 and 14 and 15, 16 and 17.

Ireland, for whom a win or a high-scoring draw in Warsaw would have sent them to the finals, fell behind to Grzegorz Krychowiak's 13th-minute strike, but got themselves back into the game when Walters levelled from the spot.

But Lewandowski's winner proved not to be the end of their frustrations in Warsaw as Shane Long, the hero of Thursday night's victory over world champions Germany, was carried from the field on a stretcher before O'Shea was sent off for a second bookable offence and Walters collected a third caution of the campaign in stoppage time at the end of the game.

O'Neill, who admitted his players simply could not replicate the intensity of their performance against Germany on Thursday evening, called on UEFA to reconsider their disciplinary rules, which he described as unfair after considering the implications of a costly evening at the Narodowy Stadium.

He said: "It seems crazy. It's very, very difficult to go through 10 games without picking up suspensions along the way. It seems rather unfair then too to carry it into the play-off situation and 12 games.

"There's no reason why you can't start it again, and also one of the groups plays with a team less and so one of the teams has actually had eight games, so it's a wee bit unfair in that respect and I think it's something that UEFA should really have a look at.

"I think the play-off situation should be entirely different, if that's the case. We are punished for 12 games instead of 10 and one team has only eight games to negotiate."

Poland boss Adam Nawalka's emotions were very different as he congratulated his players for a job well done.

He said: "It is enough to look at the result of the game. It was a fierce game, it was a very aggressive match, but we tried from the very beginning to control the whole game, which is why we scored the first goal.

"Unfortunately, we lost the second, but then we scored again and we tried to keep our opponents under pressure all the time and at the end of the day, we qualified and I am extremely happy about that.

"I have to say that my players did an extremely great job today and this is their success. They have worked for that for a very long time, from the beginning of the tournament and I have to say I am very pleased.

"But still, we have not said the last word."

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