Belfast Telegraph

Republic can regroup and repeat Euro heroics: Walters


By Damian Spellman

Jonathan Walters has warned Serbia and Wales they cannot afford to relax as the Republic of Ireland target another late fightback in a qualifying campaign.

Walters and his team-mates tasted defeat for the first time in the World Cup preliminaries as Serbia left Dublin with a 1-0 win on Tuesday evening to cement their place at the top of Group D.

Realistically, that means the Republic are likely to have to win both their remaining games - against Moldova at the Aviva Stadium and the Welsh in Cardiff next month - to keep their dreams of a trip to Russia alive.

And that is just what they intend to do.

Walters said: "It's going to be a grandstand finish and we know what we need: two wins. We'll go for it.

"It was pretty sombre after the defeat, but we know we've got a month to go. We meet up again and then we'll be right up for those two games. We have two games to go and hopefully we can do it."

The Republic have previous in that respect - they looked to be out of the race for Euro 2016 qualification until they put together a run of successive victories over Gibraltar, Georgia and World champions Germany to edge out Scotland, eventually making it to France via the play-offs.

They were resilient at the finals too, booking their place in the knockout phase with a famous 1-0 win over Italy before giving the hosts a major scare in the last 16.

However, their task this time around looks even tougher. A difficult four days saw them return from Georgia with a fortuitous point on Saturday, when they turned in a poor display, and they then emerged from the clash with the Serbians empty handed.

Aleksandar Kolarov's stinging 55th-minute strike won the day on Tuesday, although Nikola Maksimovic's 68th-minute dismissal sparked a late onslaught during which the Republic were adamant they should have been awarded a penalty for Jagos Vukovic's clumsy challenge on substitute Daryl Murphy.

Walters said: "We threw the kitchen sink at them and couldn't get the result. Fair play to Serbia.

"We had some half-chances, shots from the edge of the box that didn't hit the target. We probably should have had a penalty but it wasn't to be.

"They're a very difficult side, the way they play the game and waste a bit of time. They were 1-0 up, so they were always going to put men behind the ball.

"They've got big boys and they're clever in what they do, going down quite easily. They got free-kicks you probably wouldn't get in England.

"But it doesn't matter how you perform if you don't get the points. It wasn't to be. We go again, Moldova here and then the big one in Wales. We'll see what's to be and hopefully we can put in performances like that and get the right result."

Bottom of the table Moldova, who have only two points to their name but held Wales for 80 minutes in Chisinau on Tuesday evening before succumbing 2-0, are due in Dublin on October 6.

Republic midfielders Robbie Brady and James McClean will sit out that match through suspension, in Brady's case serving a ban for the second time in the campaign.

The Republic travel to Cardiff three days later, desperately hoping qualification is still a possibility when they get there.

Cyrus Christie has, meanwhile, urged the Republic to learn from their mistakes if they are to revive their World Cup hopes.

"We know what we have to do. When Moldova come here, we have to put on a performance and play like we did (against Serbia) and take our chances, and then go to Wales and win there as well," said Christie. "We know we can beat both those teams. We showed on Tuesday what we are capable of.

"In Georgia we did let ourselves down, but we have to move on and learn from it and put our mistakes right.

"We have to regroup, learn from the mistakes we've made and improve on what we can do better.

"We know we can win, we know we can put away our chances - we have shown it throughout. We're a strong team, and when we perform like that, usually we win.

"It just didn't quite happen for us, so we move on now. We look forward to the other two games and we have to win both."

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