O'Neill: Germany proves progress made
Martin O'Neill believes that the four points won from Germany during the qualifying campaign to date are clear evidence of progress made during his time as Ireland boss.
In the vacuum before the play-off draw next Sunday, O'Neill finds himself defending his record despite huge results against the 2014 World Cup winners.
Criticism of his team selection against Poland rumbles on in advance of the mid-November win or bust games.
"If you beat the world champions, I think you have to feel that you might be making some progress. Last time we played at the Aviva, Germany won 6-1 and could have had more," he said.
"Sometimes people look at progress subjectively. Progress is about trying to qualify, about players improvement but if I needed proof positive, the Germany game stands out.
"Everybody's always asking for extra. Even at club level, people talk about improvement.
"And then suddenly one year when that improvement stops, you're all back to square one again.
"If we qualify, you can absolutely guarantee that there's been improvement, because you can't do any more than that. But I think if some players feel their game has improved, not only because of playing at international but also because I've attempted to show them how to play the game or their position, I think that's improvement."
O'Neill defended the performance against Poland but underlined the fact that Ireland were within a kick of automatic qualification. "I'm as disappointed as anyone that we haven't made it.
"Even though we didn't create many chances against Poland, we're still a whisker away from making it to France," he claimed.
"What I said has come to fruition: teams have taken points off each other. I heard Gordon saying that they're out despite us and Poland not beating them, but we've taken four points and beaten the world champions. Scotland didn't do that. So we should put this into perspective.
"I'm disappointed but we're still here, still fighting. I said to the players in the dressing room that I would have taken this situation.
"When we saw the group in the first place, I may well have taken it before we even kicked a ball in Georgia in the very first game."