Nothing will be decided in Vienna - Ireland boss Martin O'Neill
Published 12/11/2016 | 06:56
Martin O'Neill has told his Republic of Ireland players their World Cup destiny will not be decided whatever happens in Vienna on Saturday evening.
Victory over Austria at the Ernst Happel Stadium would give Ireland a six-point advantage over one of their Group D qualification rivals, while defeat would drag Marcel Koller's men back into the thick of the race.
However, just as was the case during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, O'Neill believes Ireland's fate will be sealed during the second half of the campaign.
Asked if he would take a point, he said: "Us remaining unbeaten, let's say over the Christmas period and into March, would naturally give us a boost, there's no question about that, and any point away from home in international football or club football or European football is still considered, even by the very best sides, to be a good result.
"Our destiny, though, will be decided in 2017. By tomorrow, we will have played three games away from home and we will only level that up some time in June.
"This is still a very important game, don't get me wrong, and our intention is very much to go out and be on the front foot."
Ireland have a poor record against Austria - they have won only two of the 14 previous meetings between the sides and lost 1-0 on their last visit to Vienna in a World Cup qualifier in September 2013.
Just three places separate the sides in FIFA's current rankings with Austria having slipped to 30th from a high of 10th, which was their reward for reaching the Euro 2016 finals with a haul of 28 points from a possible 30, although they finished bottom of their group in France with just a single point.
Victory in Georgia got their bid for a trip to Russia off to a good start but a home draw with Wales and defeat in Serbia have rather taken the gloss off that.
O'Neill said: "I think they are a very good side. They have come home from the Euros very disappointed because they would have expected to do a lot better than they did - but having said that, they did draw with the side that went on to win it.
"I think they will be there or thereabouts at the end."