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O'Shea shrugs off talk of 'easy' Estonia

JOHN O'SHEA was delighted to see the Republic of Ireland drawn against Estonia in next month's Euro 2012 play-off, but has warned that any hint of complacency against the Baltic minnows will lead to yet more heartbreak for the long-suffering nation.

Ireland's hopes of reaching their first European Championships since 1988 were given a big boost last week when they dodged the likes of Turkey and Montenegro to be paired with Estonia, a country ranked 29 places below them in the FIFA rankings, for November's play-off tie.

Estonia have never qualified for a major tournament and their squad is made up of little-known players who mainly ply their trade in their homeland or in Russia.

They did manage to pip Serbia to second place in their qualifying group, however, and also beat Northern Ireland twice and World Cup qualifiers Slovenia to gain their play-off berth.

Ireland were denied a place in last year's World Cup when they were beaten by France in a play-off marred by controversy due to Thierry Henry's handball in the build-up to the William Gallas goal that sealed qualification for the former world champions.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men will be facing a less celebrated side this time, but defender O'Shea has warned that the Irish could easily miss out on their fifth straight major international tournament if they underestimate their opponents.


"I was happy with the draw because of the other teams we could have faced, but Estonia finished very strongly in a group that contained Italy and Serbia," the Sunderland defender said.

"They went away to Serbia and Slovenia, and Northern Ireland and won their matches.

"If we needed a danger sign then we have it there with those results.

"But look, if you had said to us beforehand that we had Estonia over two games to qualify for the European Championship then we would have taken it. We have to be positive going into it."

Ireland finished second in their group behind Russia but would have gone through automatically had they not lost to the group victors at the Aviva Stadium last October.

They would have preferred to have not gone through the play-off process after what happened at the Stade de France two years ago, but O'Shea, who played that night in Paris, insists the game will not be lingering in the players' minds when they take on the Estonians.

"That game is done and dusted now," he added.

"It's a new campaign and we finished second in a tough group with a good number of points."

Trapattoni's men play in Tallinn on November 11 and the return leg takes place in Dublin on November 15.

The Ireland boss has a selection headache up front for the games as Kevin Doyle is suspended for the first leg and captain Robbie Keane is likely to miss both games through injury. O'Shea believes the Italian has plenty of decent alternatives available to him, though.


"Fingers crossed Robbie Keane comes back in time from his injury. I believe that is a little touch-and-go, but we have the options to deal with that," O'Shea said.

"We have Shane Long, Jon Walters, and if Leon Best keeps doing the business for Newcastle, I'm sure he will be in with a chance as well.

"Simon Cox was fantastic the other night against Armenia too."

Whoever plays, O'Shea is sure that the Estonians will be greeted by an intimidating atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium.

He said: "We know that when we get back to the Aviva on the Tuesday night it will be absolutely rocking. Hopefully we can come out on top."