Bring on the Italians – Shane Duffy says Ireland can beat anyone ahead of World Cup play-off draw
Ireland defender confident O’Neill’s men can deal with World Cup draw options
Shane Duffy has declared that Ireland are capable of conquering any of their potential World Cup play-off opponents even if today's draw lands them a tough test with Italy.
The Derryman sustained a groin injury in Brighton's Premier League draw with Everton last Sunday and he is waiting on the results of a scan.
Duffy is desperate to be fit for the November dates because he feels that victory in Cardiff has given Martin O'Neill's side a renewed belief in their ability to produce an upset against vaunted opponents.
O'Neill said last week that Italy were the team he would fear when the draw takes place in Zurich this afternoon, although he added that he would be apprehensive about a showdown with any of the seeded sides.
Croatia, Denmark and Switzerland are the other possible opponents, with Northern Ireland, Greece and Sweden on the other unseeded teams.
Duffy (25) is not too perturbed by the hand that is dealt Ireland's way, insisting: "We fancy ourselves against anyone - even if it is the Italians.
"We believe in ourselves. We believe that we can beat anyone. A lot of people wrote us off but we always come back.
It's (the World Cup) the biggest of the biggest and the manager keeps mentioning that. We want to get there."
Ireland are seeking to end a 16-year wait for an appearance at the most significant football tournament of the lot.
O'Neill's men have climbed to 26th in the latest FIFA world rankings but that wasn't enough to make them a seeded side - that was well known before the list was officially released.
Switzerland are the highest-ranked seeded side in 11th spot, with 2006 champions Italy placed 15th, Croatia 18th and Denmark 19th.
Northern Ireland are the best of the rest in 23rd, with Sweden one place ahead of Ireland in 25th and Greece the lowest-ranked participant down in 47th spot.
Germany top the latest rankings, with Brazil second, Portugal third and Argentina fourth even though they qualified for the finals by only the skin of their teeth.
The draw for the play-offs takes place in Geneva today at 1pm Irish time.
Analysis: Nothing to fear in play-off draw - Daniel McDonnell, P54-55