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Monday 24 July 2017

Cyrus Christie ready to take his big chance for the Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland defender Cyrus Christie (left) is targeting World Cup qualifier victory over Austria
Republic of Ireland defender Cyrus Christie (left) is targeting World Cup qualifier victory over Austria

Cyrus Christie it targeting victory in the biggest game of his international career to date as the Republic of Ireland look to take a significant step towards the World Cup finals.

The Derby full-back has been thrust into the thick of Ireland's bid to make it to Russia next summer by the horrific double leg fracture which has effectively ended skipper Seamus Coleman's campaign.

On Sunday, he will hope to line up against Austria at the Aviva Stadium knowing a win would leave them in a strong position to claim a top-two finish in Group D and keep their qualification hopes very much alive.

Christie, who scored on his competitive debut against Gibraltar and started against world champions Germany during the last campaign, said: "Yes, it is a massive game.

"The games I have played in have been massive games. Gibraltar was obviously a big one for me and then we went into the Germany game, number one in the world, and we managed to pull off a victory there and that was vital in our qualification.

"But Austria now is an even bigger one. We have got a lot of home games coming up and we need to build on that and we need to stake our claim at the top of the table.

"You look at the table and if we can win and get the three points on Sunday, it's puts a bit of a gap between us and the others if the results go our way. That's laying down a marker and that's what we will go out there and look to do."

Ireland are currently locked together with Serbia on 11 points at the top of the group with Wales and Austria four points adrift at the halfway stage.

The Welsh travel to Belgrade on Sunday knowing defeat could prove all but fatal to their hopes if the Republic complete a double over Austria with James McClean's sweet strike having secured a precious 1-0 victory in Vienna in November.

While that may be easier said than done, Christie, who scored his second international goal in Sunday evening's 3-1 friendly victory over Uruguay, is confident he and his team-mates can emerge with the result they crave.

He said: "Obviously as a squad, we know what they [Austria] are capable of. Some of their players are playing at the highest level and you see them week in, week out, they perform.

"We know the task we have got at hand, but if we play like we played last night, we are a match for anyone. We have shown in the big games that we can pit ourselves against the best, and we want to go out there and put on a good performance and stake a claim."

For 24-year-old Christie, there will be the added pressure of deputising for Coleman, who emerged at the head of a new generation of leaders in the Ireland squad during the Euro 2016 finals in France.

Having sat out almost three months of last season with a foot injury and struggled to regain his place afterwards, the defender took himself off to America at the end of the season for intensive personal training and reported for duty last month raring to go.

He said: "Of course I have got massive boots to fill with Seamus. He's a fantastic player - I touch on it in every interview, how good he is and how vital to the squad he is. I have to step up and obviously there is a lot of pressure on me to fill those boots.

"I went away and did the work and I think I have reaped the rewards for that. I caught a bit of a lucky break with my shot and it managed to go in, but we will build on that performance and we will go into Austria full of confidence."

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