Hunt: We need to win to put Italy under pressure

Hunt: We need to win to put Italy under pressure

Stephen Hunt is targeting nothing less than a win from the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Cyprus in Nicosia on Saturday.

Victory over the Cypriots would maintain the Republic’s quest to challenge world champions and Group Eight leaders Italy for automatic qualification for next summer’s finals in South Africa, although a draw would be far from disastrous.

But having drawn their last two away games in Italy and Bulgaria, 28-year-old midfielder Hunt is eyeing all three points and what could be a decisive victory.

Ireland currently trail Italy by just a point having played one match more, while Bulgaria and Cyprus, who both also have a game in hand, are five and eight points adrift respectively.

Hunt said: “To qualify, we have to win three [points]. Italy have that way about them that they will always do just enough to qualify, and we need to win away to put pressure on them.”

The fact that the Irish are very much in contention at the top of the group is testament to the job manager Giovanni Trapattoni has done since taking up his post in May last year.

They are unbeaten in the campaign to date, and with home games against the Italians and Montenegro to come next month, the play-offs at least are very much within their grasp.

Hunt added: “He’s been good for Ireland. We are in with a chance of qualifying for a World Cup and to be honest, not many people would have thought that after the last campaign.

“So he’s obviously doing something right and the players are behind him. We have got a belief that we can go all the way.”

A win or a draw in Nicosia would help soothe the memories of a 5-2 European Championship qualifier defeat there almost three years ago which left the Republic’s hopes in shreds and the nation in shock.

Hunt, now back plying his trade in the Barclays Premier League with Hull after a summer switch from Reading, is one of few of his compatriots who have been able to forget about a black night, but he knows Ireland are in for a tough evening at the GSP Stadium.

Asked about the October 2007 debacle, he replied: “I didn’t watch it, I didn’t see it. It was three years ago. I saw the goals.

“It’s still fresh in people’s minds who were there, but it’s gone now.

“Cyprus? Good team. They haven’t had the results they deserve and we have to go out there and hope they stay unlucky.”

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