Kevin Kilbane has warned the Republic of Ireland to beware a wounded animal ahead of Russia’s Euro 2012 visit to Dublin next month.
Dick Advocaat’s men will head for the Aviva Stadium on Friday, October 8 no doubt still smarting from their 1-0 home defeat by Group B rivals Slovakia in Moscow last night.
Their surprise reverse came just hours before the Republic defeated minnows Andorra 3-1 on home turf to complete a maximum haul from their opening two qualifiers following a 1-0 win in Armenia.
That left the Republic and the Slovakians locked together at the top of the group with Giovanni Trapattoni’s side leading the way on goal difference, although the campaign remains at the formative stage and much more difficult tasks lie ahead.
The stakes will be raised significantly when Russia touch down in Dublin before Ireland fly out to Slovakia for two games in the space of five days which could have a major influence on who makes it to the finals.
Kilbane said: “Russia will be coming here now a wounded animal and wanting to really put us under a lot of pressure to try to get their campaign back on track.
“But we are at home and we are going into the game full of confidence. We certainly won’t get carried away, but we have got six points and we are happy with the first two games.
“Armenia are going to cause a few problems at home as well, but I think it is going to be between ourselves, Slovakia and Russia at the end of it.
“But it is nice that Slovakia have taken points from Russia. If we can take maximum points when Russia come to Dublin, it will give us an advantage.
“They are a really good side, they have got good players and it is going to be tough for us.”
Kilbane and his team-mates were aware of the events in Moscow before their game kicked off, but few were surprised by the scoreline.
The 33-year-old Hull utility man, who played against Slovakia twice in the last European campaign, said: “Slovakia are a good side. I watched them a couple of times in the World Cup and they have got really good players, so I don’t think they will be surprised.
“The Russians at home would have been expecting to take maximum points and it proves how many tough teams we are up against in our group.”
In that context, the Republic could have done little more than win their opening two fixtures, although the margin of victory might have been more comfortable in both cases.
It was Kilbane who set the ball rolling last night with a rare international goal – his first for three-and-a-half years and his eighth in total – 14 minutes in, and his side were cruising when Kevin Doyle lashed home a second from 25 yards five minutes before the break.
However, they had not bargained for a wonder-strike from Andorra midfielder Christian Martinez on the stroke of half-time, and it took skipper Robbie Keane’s 54th-minute effort to ease the home side to victory.