Saturday 21 April 2018

O'Neill expects Russia World Cup plans to proceed without hitch

Martin O'Neill will travel to Russia next month for the qualifying draw in St. Petersburg
Martin O'Neill will travel to Russia next month for the qualifying draw in St. Petersburg
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The FBI may be investigating the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, but Martin O'Neill believes there is little chance of the tournament being moved at this relatively late stage.

O'Neill is pencilled in to travel to St Petersburg next month, with the qualifying draw scheduled for July 25.

And, despite the wide-ranging investigation that has led to the departure of Sepp Blatter and a revision of FIFA structures, the Ireland boss ultimately feels that it would be harsh to reset all the 2018 plans at this juncture.

"Being genuine here, I haven't really had much time to think about it but, from a Russian viewpoint, I think they'd be really disappointed now - regardless of the changes that have taken place - since it's been set up for some time," said O'Neill.

"World Cups do take a certain amount of time to get ready and they'd be really disappointed now if that was to be overturned.

"There may be legal implications as well as everything else that I'd be totally unaware of but I'd say from a Russian viewpoint they'd be extremely disappointed if they were to lose the World Cup."

O'Neill declined to get drawn into the debate around Blatter's decision to step down.

"I probably don't really know enough," he said. "I've just been following it and going along with it. There is a change here and it looks from a distance as if things had to change at some point.

"I would say, essentially, the same thing as most other people. There has been a lot of pressure in the last couple of days heaped on him. And he has made that decision.

"I would not know the ins and outs of what is happening. I'm a general reader like anyone else."

The results of Ireland's matches with England and Scotland will dictate their seeding for the draw in Russia.

As it stands, they would be in the fourth pot.

O'Neill is conscious that a limp end to the Euro 2016 attempt could impact on his chances of being around for the next campaign but it is standard practice for the current manager to attend the draw.

"Why not?" he said. "It's a nice trip and St Petersburg is a beautiful city."

Irish Independent

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