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Austrians confident of claiming second spot

AUSTRIA insist that they have "nothing to fear" from Ireland in the battle to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Presuming that Germany will top the group in the World Cup qualifiers, as Germany have done in every tournament which they have entered, it's a race between Ireland, Sweden and Austria to finish in second place to bag a play-off spot.

Austria started the qualifiers with a defeat at home to Germany but their captain Christian Fuchs says that Ireland do not worry his side.

"I think Germany will finish top of our group. They're number two in the world rankings, so we have to be realistic. But based on our performance against the Germans, we're contenders for second place, in my opinion. We have nothing to fear from Sweden and Ireland," he said.

"The way we've come on is absolutely positive, and if you're playing well, you automatically gain confidence. I'm proud to be part of this team. If we keep up the good work and stay on course, I'm convinced we'll soon qualify for a major tournament."

Austria face Kazakhstan in back-to-back games over the next week, playing in Astana on Friday and then in Austria next Tuesday.

Clough hails Ram Conor

NIGEL CLOUGH insists he's happy with the form of Irish striker Conor Sammon in the Derby County side.

Dubliner Sammon had been dropped by Clough but was restored to the starting XI for last week's Championship clash with Brighton.

"In the first half against Brighton on Saturday, he was superb," Clough said of his £1million signing.

"He was a handful, a nuisance up front. He held the ball and won his headers -- everything you want a striker to do up their on his own. It was probably the best all-round performance he has put in for us.

"This is Conor's first experience of English football in the Championship," said Clough.

"He is improving all the time and hopefully we will see the best of him in the next two or three seasons. We are very pleased with him."