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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Boniek: Ireland leading the way in Group D

Stephen Hunt on John O'Shea:
Stephen Hunt on John O'Shea: "After the week he's had, yesterday showed you can't take anything for granted in football although he's never been one to do that. To the outsider, it looked like John's path was easy. All the clubs wanted him and he went to Manchester United but if you think doing what he did was easy, then you will never understand professional football" (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)

POLAND legend Zbigniew Boniek believes that Ireland have led the way in the Euro 2016 qualifiers by winning away to Georgia - and that is the next task for a Polish side who currently lead the table in Group D.

The Georgians, whose only points in the group so far have come against minnows Gibraltar, have played just one game at home in the campaign, where Ireland earned a hard-fought but very important 2-1 win thanks to two goals from Aiden McGeady.

Polish confidence is high as Adam Nawalka's side top the group, ahead of Ireland on goal difference, but while Martin O'Neill's outfit head into what will be a derby-like atmosphere away to Scotland in just 17 days' time, Poland have a tricky game of their own, away to Georgia.

That will be the last game in the group for the Poles before their crucial match against Ireland in Dublin next March, and for former captain Boniek - who is now head of the Polish FA - it's essential for their team to equal Ireland's result in Tbilisi.

Optimistic

"The game away to Georgia next month is very important, because the Irish won there," says Boniek. "On the football map, Georgia are very far away from Gibraltar. The Georgians are very good technically and are clever.

"There is a long distance between now and Euro 2016 in France but, if after the first four games we have 10 points, we can be very optimistic about the games to come," added Boniek, with Poland's next matches away to Ireland (March) and at home to Georgia (June).

After a slow start to the group which has seen them labour to a win at home to Scotland and then drop points to Ireland and Poland, Germany know they have to do better and Boniek expects a response from the group favourites, who finish off 2014 at home to Gibraltar next month.

Asked if Germany will "wake up" next year and proceed to win the group, Boniek said: "They will wake up but they haven't taken the three points from us and they didn't take three points from Ireland.

"Let Germany have their own worries, we have our own.

"In our group at the moment we have the world champions who have some problems, then you have three teams of similar standard: Scotland, Ireland and Poland.

"For now we are looking at Georgia next month, they are a tough opponent, especially in Tbilisli."

Martin O'Neill is already making plans for that date with Scotland in Glasgow and he is due in Dublin later this week to announce his squad or the Parkhead clash and the friendly at home to the USA for days later.

The Ireland boss stepped up his scouting missing last weekend when he took in the Burnley-Everton clash, O'Neill on hand to see Stephen Ward start a game at left back for Burnley for the first time this season.

afitzmaurice@herald.ie

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