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Tuesday 26 September 2017

O'Neill: We can still make it to the World Cup for captain Coleman's sake

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill is adamant that his Ireland side can stay in contention for the World Cup finals by getting the two wins they need to keep alive any hopes of qualification.

And the Irish boss claims that the thoughts of securing a place in Russia 2018 for the sake of injured captain Seamus Coleman is a major motivating factor for the Republic's players now.

Ireland's last two games are at home to bottom side Moldova and away to Wales; before the Welsh host Ireland in Cardiff, while Wales' next game is away to a Georgia side now unbeaten in three games in the group.

Wales won 2-0 in Moldova last night so this was costly all around for Ireland as James McClean and Robbie Brady picked up bookings which leave them banned for the October visit of the Moldovans.

"We still have to beat Moldova, they were 0-0 up to 80 minutes against Wales and we have lost James and Robbie, two big players for that night," said O'Neill, when asked if he'd taken taken this current situation at the start of the group.

"Before a ball was kicked, if you said we had to win the last two games, one at home and one in Cardiff, I would have taken that. That is the situation, 19 points can get you there.

Have we blown it? Absolutely not, we can win our last two games, we can still make it.

"After a performance like that last night I am confident we can win both games.

"I have said that to them, there are a lot of disappointed players in that dressing room, it's not just words, it's how I feel. But I think we can with both games.

"I thought the players were fantastic, really fantastic they gave every ounce for the shirt, every once they have, nothing left, it was a big effort.

"It would have been just desserts if we had got a penalty and a conversion, that as the least we deserved.

"Kolarov scored a rocket of a goal but I don't remember them having three chances and apparently their captain just said that it was the hardest game of his international career.

"We are not out of it, far from it, we have two games left, if we beat Moldova, which we can, we can go to Wales and win. I have just said that to the players," added O'Neill, aware of the importance of Coleman - out since he broke his leg on Ireland duty in March - to the panel.

"I am disappointed for the team, especially Séamus Coleman who didn't play last night, the players were delighted to see him coming over, I was delighted to see him come over and if we make it to the World Cup, he might be back around Christmas, the players love him to death and if there is anything to keep you going, it's that, Coleman getting to the World Cup," he said.

Ireland had chances to draw level and possibly beat a Serbia side reduced to 10 men, decisions going against Ireland as Daryl Murphy was denied a clear penalty.

But the lack of a cutting edge, and the ability to convert chances, is a long-standing worry.

"That's been the situation the Republic of Ireland have had for 40-odd years.

Roy Keane was telling me that even with the great side he had under Jack Charlton they were never running away with games, we are the side who has to score the decisive goal, we need to turn that around, we need to find the net and win but it's that clinical finish we need, in my time I had an ageing Robbie Keane but I wish I had a 27-year-old Robbie Keane, he would have been in his element last night," added O'Neill.

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