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Jonathan Walters taking nothing for granted in Ireland's World Cup bid

Jonathan Walters is refusing to even contemplate World Cup qualification after helping the Republic of Ireland come back from the dead to make it to Euro 2016.

Two years ago to the week, Ireland's hopes of making it to France were left hanging by a thread when they drew 1-1 with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

At that point they were in fourth place in the group, five points adrift of leaders Poland and behind Germany and Scotland.

Walters and his team-mates were less than impressed by the celebrations of the Scots, who appeared to feel they had planted one foot in the finals that evening.

However, the Republic eventually qualified via the play-offs and it is for that reason that the Stoke striker will take nothing for granted.

Asked if he could sense the World Cup finals approaching, Walters said: "No.

"We know if we win tomorrow, the gap will be bigger, but we have been on the other end of that situation where we came back in the last qualifying campaign to upset the odds.

"We know even if we get a win tomorrow, there are some very difficult games coming up - Wales away, Serbia - we have got to play everyone again.

"There are teams up there all fighting for it. We'll reassess come tomorrow evening, but there's a long way to go yet before the World Cup."

For all Walters' caution, victory over Austria on Sunday would extend the gap between the sides to seven points and significantly reduce the field in the race to Russia.

The Austrians have been dealt a series of selection blows with one of them ruling out the Irishman's club-mate Marko Arnautovic through suspension.

Asked about Arnautovic, 33-year-old Walters said: "He's been a little bit inconsistent this year, but when he's on it, he's a really difficult player to play against.

"He's a big miss for them, but they've got a very strong team and sometimes it's the players that are sitting in the background, a bit of an unknown, that can be very dangerous.

"We saw that ourselves against Wales when we were depleted in numbers, but we gave a good performance.

"But Marko is a big miss for them because he can create something out of nothing."


From Belfast Telegraph