Thursday 22 March 2018

Jonathan Walters warns of World Cup 'twists and turns' ahead for Republic

Jonathan Walters is predicting twists and turns along the road to World Cup qualification
Jonathan Walters is predicting twists and turns along the road to World Cup qualification

Jonathan Walters is predicting a nail-biting race for World Cup qualification for the Republic of Ireland as their Group D campaign unfolds.

Manager Martin O'Neill admitted as soon as the draw was made that with Wales, Austria and Serbia also in the mix and Georgia and Moldova likely to make life difficult, the road to Russia 2018 would be a tricky one.

Ireland's hard-fought and in many ways fortuitous 1-0 victory over the Georgians in Dublin on Thursday evening represented a hurdle stumbled across, and Walters knows there will be more obstacles along the way for all the likely contenders.

He said: "We have won, that's the main thing. It doesn't matter how we performed. If it was a knock-out tournament, we'd be through to the next round.

"But there's lost of twists and turns, we knew that from the last group. We beat Germany at home when we had been written off early in the group and I'm sure there will be lots of twists and turns between now and the end of this group.

"There are some good teams in there and we want to be up there facing the likes of Austria and Wales. We want to be in with a shout of qualifying.

"We don't look too far ahead. If you take your eye off one team, the likes of Moldova, it can be a tricky game if you take those teams lightly."

There will be little danger of the Republic taking anything lightly as they head for Moldova on Sunday, hoping to return from Chisinau having collected seven of the first nine points they have contested.

They will arrive sitting level with Wales, Serbia and Austria on four points, but knowing that any slip-up could prove costly.

Walters said: "Let's hope we are sitting here on Sunday with seven. We always knew it was going to be a tight group. These are the games that you need to win and we will deal with the other ones when they come along."

No-one within the Ireland camp was attempting to disguise the fact that their first-half display against the Georgians was nowhere near good enough, although with their ultimate mission achieved there was still a level of satisfaction.

Walters said: "If we are sitting here and we play terribly all the way through and get 1-0 results, everyone is going to be happy. We got the result, that was the main thing."

Press Association

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