Saturday 18 November 2017

O'Neill insists Serbia game is still a must-win


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill is expecting Ireland's World Cup qualifying group to go to the wire but has identified September's visit of Serbia as a must-win encounter.

Ireland are joint-top with the Serbs and four clear of Austria and Wales with four games remaining. They travel to take on Georgia in Tbilisi before hosting Serbia in a September double-header.

In October, they welcome Moldova to Dublin ahead of a final-day trip to Wales.

O'Neill has identified the two home matches as key after successive draws on their own turf against Wales and Austria.

"I said it when the draw was made and the results so far are proving it that this group could go down to the final day," says O'Neill.

"I think it's there for us. We'll have to win our home games for a start, that's two big matches for us. Georgia is a big match for us; the turnaround is very quick for Serbia.

"We've four games left and we have to get points on the board. We're in a dog-fight now and maybe that's no bad thing."

Jon Walters's late goal rescued Ireland at the weekend but anger with refereeing decisions left O'Neill with the sense that it was two points lost.

He says that Ireland did intend to start the game positively even though Austria boss Marcel Koller felt the locals set up for a draw.

"We have to do much, much better in the first-half," said O'Neill. "The whole intention was to get on the front foot and we did anything but that. And our sloppy play allowed them to take their time and work their way into the game.

"We couldn't get any momentum going and take them out of the comfort zone. But we fought back and we're still in the competition."

Irish Independent

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