Tuesday 16 January 2018

St Ledger backs Ireland to secure automatic qualifying spot

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SEAN St Ledger has backed Ireland to top Group B and qualify for Euro 2012.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men are just eight days away from the defining week of their campaign, hosting Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow week, before facing Russia in Moscow the following Tuesday.

The back-to-back internationals are Ireland's biggest games since the night in Paris when Thierry Henry's infamous handball led to World Cup play-off heartache.

And with all three teams tied on 13 points at the top of the group, the Leicester defender reckons Ireland can qualify automatically for the finals in Ukraine and Poland.

"This time we can win the group outright, whereas with Italy in the World Cup (group) it was probably more difficult," he said.

"We played very well in Slovakia and could easily have won the game. Moscow will be an intimidating atmosphere with so much riding on the game, and an artificial pitch is something that a lot of us probably haven't played on.

"They're two tough games, but we're on a great run and the spirit in the camp is high so we're looking to continue that run."

The assertion that Ireland can win in Moscow might be greeted with scepticism after Russia's impressive performance and 3-2 win in Dublin last October.

But St Ledger reckons the pressure will get to the Russians at home.

"The Russian press said it had been the best they had played in a number of years," he said. "They are at home so there is a lot of pressure on them. They are favourites to win the group so with those things and our good away form, you have got to be optimistic.

"You have got to look at the Slovakia match as a must-win game. It's your home games that you always look to win and you try to build your base from there. If we get three points, then that builds confidence."

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