Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill says injured right-back Seamus Coleman will be at the forefront of his players’ minds in Monday’s World Cup qualification shootout with Wales.
Everton defender Coleman remains sidelined after suffering a horrendous double leg break following a tackle by Neil Taylor during Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in Dublin in March.
Ireland must beat Wales in Cardiff to stand any hope of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Russia and while O’Neill played down talk of revenge, he conceded thoughts of Coleman will be a motivating factor.
“I don’t know about revenge, but certainly the view among the players is that if Russia was available to us and we could make it there, thoughts about Seamus would be very much in the forefront of our minds,” he said.
“He’s obviously been a class player, a world-class player, and he’s been essential for us. We’ve missed him. It would be nice to go there.
“He’s making a good recovery now. I think that when he’s ready he will get back to the form he showed both for club and country.
“It would be nice that by the time he is back, he’s got something to cheer (about) at international level.”
Wales are in second place in European qualifying Group D, a point below leaders Serbia and a point above Celtic cousins Ireland.
Second place should be enough to yield a play-off berth, depending on results in other groups.
Should Serbia slip up at home to Georgia, Wales and Ireland could qualify automatically as group winners if they win at Cardiff City Stadium.
– ‘Verve and determination’ –
“From the outset I said this would be the toughest group because Georgia were the strongest pot-six side going and teams would take points off each other,” O’Neill told his pre-match press conference.
“Coming into the final game, three teams can win the group. We could win the group and we could maybe not even go through. It’s that tight.”
Ireland’s situation recalls their final group-stage game against Italy at Euro 2016, when an 85th-minute Robbie Brady header took O’Neill’s men into the last 16.
“We’ve got 90 minutes in which to try and get a goal,” said O’Neill, who welcomes Brady and fellow winger James McClean back from suspension.
“I think our approach will be quite similar to the one that we had against Italy in Lille, where we knew before the game that a win was the only thing that mattered for us.
“We played with a lot of verve and determination, got out and closed Italy down very quickly, and a lot of that will be necessary tomorrow night.
“We created some chances and finally took one with five minutes to go in an epic game.
“It’s not that far back in the memory that players shouldn’t consider it when we’re approaching this game.
“We know at the end of the 90 minutes we’ve got to find ourselves in front. I think we’re capable of doing that.”
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