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O'Shea set for Estonia test

John O'Shea was delighted to see Ireland drawn against Estonia in next month's Euro 2012 play-off, but has warned that any hint of complacency against the Baltic minnows will lead to yet more heartbreak for the long-suffering nation.

Ireland's hopes of reaching their first European Championships in since 1988 were given a big boost last week when they dodged the likes of Turkey and Montenegro to be paired with Estonia, a country ranked 29 places below them in the FIFA rankings, for November's play-off tie.

"I was happy with the draw because of the other teams we could have faced, but Estonia finished very strongly in a group that contained Italy and Serbia," the Sunderland defender said.

Estonia have never qualified for a major tournament and their squad is made up of little-known players who mainly ply their trade in their homeland or in Russia.

They did manage to pip Serbia to second place in their qualifying group, however, and also beat Northern Ireland twice and World Cup qualifiers Slovenia to gain their play-off berth.

Ireland were denied a place in last year's World Cup when they were beaten by France in a play-off marred by controversy due to Thierry Henry's handball in the build-up to the William Gallas goal that sealed qualification for the former world champions.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men will be facing a much easier side this time around, but defender O'Shea has warned that the Irish could easily miss out on their fifth straight major international tournament if they underestimate their opponents.

He added: "They went away to Serbia and Slovenia, and Northern Ireland and won their matches. If we needed a danger sign then we have it there with those results.

"But look, if you had said to us beforehand that we had Estonia over two games to qualify for the European Championship then we would have taken it. We have to be positive going into it."

Ireland finished second in their group behind Russia but would have gone through automatically had they not lost to the group victors at the Aviva Stadium last October.


From Belfast Telegraph