Saturday 3 December 2016

'Confident' Martin O'Neill not stressed by draw fate

Published 15/10/2015 | 02:30

Martin O'Neil: 'We’re not concerned about whether we’re seeded or unseeded at this stage, and we’re confident to take on anyone'
Martin O'Neil: 'We’re not concerned about whether we’re seeded or unseeded at this stage, and we’re confident to take on anyone'

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill says that unseeded status is irrelevant heading into Sunday's play-off draw in Switzerland after UEFA confirmed that Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia and Hungary are the four possible opponents.

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O'Neill insists that he will travel to this weekend Nyon with no ideas in his head about which team he would prefer to land in the Euro 2016 decider.

"I'm not going to spend the days leading up to Sunday hoping for one team over another," said O'Neill.

"We're not concerned about whether we're seeded or unseeded at this stage, and we're confident to take on anyone."

Ireland fans have identified Hungary as the ideal-world outcome after they finished third in Northern Ireland's group. In Hungary, they have identified Slovenia as the perfect outcome, with 42pc of fans voting for that option in a poll on the site of popular sports newspaper Nemzeti.

Academic

Just 5.5pc opted for Ireland, with a downtrodden 41pc concluding that it's academic as all four teams will beat the Hungarians. Clearly, optimism levels have been affected by a 4-3 collapse to Greece over the weekend.

In Sweden, however, most coverage has centred on the prospect of a derby with either Norway or Denmark. Ireland are not quite on the radar.

For now, O'Neill's primary concern is that his star men avoid unnecessary setbacks. Roberto Martinez has indicated that Seamus Coleman will make his Everton return this weekend after coming through Poland unscathed.

One option that has been unavailable to O'Neill this autumn is Harry Arter, who is still waiting for his Premier League bow as a consequence of injuring his groin during his Irish debut against England in June.

Arter played 57 minutes for Bournemouth's U-21 team on Tuesday, but manager Eddie Howe has confirmed that the midfielder will not be in first-team contention for at least another week.

"I played half an hour for (Ireland) which was probably the worst thing I did because it probably prolonged the time I was out," said Arter.

"To miss out has been horrible."

Irish Independent

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