Delighted Martin O'Neill: "Let's make sure our fans have something to cheer about for home leg"
Martin O’Neill’s is ‘delighted’ that Ireland’s Euro 2016 fate will be decided in Dublin after the draw for the play-offs pitted his team with Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The Irish boss travelled to Switzerland keen to avoid Ukraine and hopeful that his side’s second leg would take place at the Aviva Stadium and those boxes were ticked although he respects a dangerous Bosnian side that competed in last summer’s World Cup. Edin Dzeko, the former Manchester City striker, is their leading light.
Ireland will make their first journey to Bosnia for round one on Friday November 13 with the decisive second leg taking place in Dublin three days later on Monday November 16. In this campaign, Bosnia have played their home fixtures in Zenica - which is an hour’s driving distance from the capital Sarajevo.
“If there is anything to be taken from a 50-50 draw then we have that,” said O’Neill, when asked about the final 90 minutes taking place on Irish soil. “I’m delighted, I would have taken that but we have to make sure we’re still in it and have something to play for in the second game.
“There’s no point in thinking that we hold an advantage in Dublin with the crowd behind us if we don’t go and perform in the first game. That would be really important. Bosnia, by that time, will probably have Edin Dzeko back from injury.”
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Dzeko, who now plays for Roma, missed Bosnia’s concluding wins over Wales and Cyprus through injury. He was an unused sub for the Serie A side’s win over Empoli on Saturday with compatriot Miralem Pjanic on target.
Everton’s Mo Besic, another capable performer, will be suspended for the first leg along with Irish duo Jonathan Walters and John O’Shea.
“They have some really decent players,” continued O’Neill, “I watched their game against Cyprus and Bosnia done great to win that. They got a goal in front, went behind 2-1 and came back to win so they have some very fine players. But we’re delighted to be in and, listen, we have to go for it. Really go for it. We have a chance. I’ll do a lot more delving into their group.”
If Bosnia, as expected, nominate Zenica as the venue - they have to confirm details with UEFA by next Sunday - Irish fans will have to scramble for tickets. The away team are entitled to an 5pc allocation which could restrict travelling numbers to fewer than 800. Bosnian attendances for big matches in this campaign have ranged between 10,000 to 12,000 in a 15,600 capacity stadium.
Tickets would have been no problem for a trip to Ukraine’s lavish facilities in Kiev, but that was the worst case scenario for O’Neill.
“If you were to ask any of the unseeded coaches I think they would have said Ukraine are very strong,” said the 63-year-old, who watched them give Spain plenty of problems on Monday in an encounter where visiting goalkeeper David De Gea claimed the man of the match award following an undeserved victory.
Ukraine ended up drawing Slovenia, with Sweden taking on Denmark in a tasty local derby and Hungary landing Norway.
Ukraine vs Slovenia
Sweden vs Denmark
Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Republic of Ireland
Norway vs Hungary
Ireland will play Bosnia away on Friday, November 13 with the home fixture three days later on Monday 16