Belfast Telegraph

Momentum can help us seize big chance, vows Republic boss


By Mark Mann-Bryans

Martin O'Neill has called for his Republic of Ireland side to draw on their recent experiences after they were paired with Denmark in the play-offs for next summer's World Cup.

The Republic secured a play-off spot after a 1-0 win in Wales last week was enough to seal second place in Group D behind winners Serbia.

This will be their eighth play-off appearance for either a World Cup or European Championship - making them the most experienced nation in such situations.

The Republic saw off Bosnia and Herzegovina in a play-off for Euro 2016 and, after being drawn against Denmark this time out, O'Neill wants to tap into the memories of those games.

He said: "I think we can draw from that experience. We had two games against Bosnia, two very difficult games for us.

"The (away) game was shrouded in fog in the second half and we got that elusive away goal and were able to carry that momentum into Dublin. Because it is not that long ago I think we can draw something from that.

"Two games in quick succession, the turnover being very quick. Lets just go for it. We are delighted to be here first of all, we had a great win against Wales to propel us here and now lets take our chance.

"I'm delighted to be drawn away from home first so we will try and get some sort of advantage, or certainly negate Denmark's advantage before we get to Dublin.

"I know the manager. He and I used to play together so it will be an interesting confrontation.

"If you ask most coaches, you want the second game at home. But with the rules like extra time, it gives the away team that chance to score in 120 minutes.

"We have momentum and that's important. We won our last two games to get here. I'm now concerned with the next couple of weeks and making sure my players don't get injuries at club level."

Denmark are currently regarded as the 19th best nation in the world and were the lowest-ranked of the seeded teams for yesterday's draw in Zurich.

The Republic are only seven places beneath them in the latest Fifa rankings and goalkeeper Darren Randolph admits Denmark was the tie he was hoping to land.

"I think everyone will be very happy with that draw, being away first leg and obviously second leg way in Dublin," he said.

"That was probably who I was looking out for, yes. I'm happy with that draw."

Meanwhile, Randolph's Middlesbrough team-mate Cyrus Christie wants to seal qualification for Russia as a tribute to captain Seamus Coleman - who suffered a serious injury earlier in the qualification process and is still sidelined.

"Of course, that was mentioned," he said.

"With Seamus being injured we wanted to get to the World Cup for him, he is a big miss and he is our captain and at the end of the day he is a great player.

"If you asked many of the lads they would probably want to do it for him."

Croatia will play Greece, with Italy and Sweden drawn together in the most eye-catching of the play-off fixtures from an international standpoint.

Belfast Telegraph

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