Monday 23 October 2017

We can’t underestimate Estonia, Shay Given warns team-mates

Damian Spellman

SHAY Given has warned his Republic of Ireland team-mates their play-off experience will count for nothing if they underestimate Estonia.

The 35-year-old Aston Villa player has suffered both the joy of qualification and the bitter disappointment of failure in sudden-death showdowns during his distinguished international career, most notably reaching the 2002 World Cup finals by edging out Iran in Tehran and then being denied a return by Thierry Henry's infamous handball in Paris two years ago.

Estonia, however, are in the play-offs for a major tournament for the first time, and while Given admits that may give his side an advantage in the Euro 2012 qualifier, he knows that alone will by no means see them through.

He said: "We do have an advantage in that we have got the experience of having been here before, and I think it's the first time they have ever qualified for a play-off situation.

"But at the same time, it's the best team they have ever had in their history.

"I haven't seen all the video footage of them yet, but I have seen some of the goals from the campaign and they had some great results, so we can't be taking them lightly, turning up and thinking it's going to be an easy game or anything like that, because we know they have some very good players."

Ireland got the draw they wanted when they were paired with the Estonians, and they struck lucky when they were handed the trip to Tallinn first on Friday evening, meaning the tie will ultimately be settled at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Tuesday.

Given said: "We have experienced the other side of things, being away for the second leg.

"Even when we qualified for the World Cup in '02, we were in Iran and there were, I don't know, 50 or 100 Irish fans there.

"If we could do it in Dublin on Tuesday night, it would be just probably the most special thing in my career to actually qualify in Dublin.

"If we could do that, then the country would be going a little bit crazy, I would think."

Given is one of a handful of players in the current squad to have played at a major finals, although even he will have had to wait 10 years if they make it this time around, and it would be his first experience of the European Championship.

He said: "I have never played in one before. It would be very special.

"The last time we were in a championships, it was in Japan and (South) Korea, the other side of the world.

"Poland and Ukraine aren't so far away, and I'm sure if we do qualify then there will be thousands and thousands of Irish fans over there.

"I have always said that Irish fans make tournaments with the atmosphere and colour that they bring to them. It would be very special for me personally to play in one of them."

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