Martin O’Neill has warned his Republic of Ireland players that nothing has changed as they head into a must-win Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia this evening.
Optimism that the Republic can make it to next summer’s finals in France has grown in the wake of Scotland’s 1-0 defeat by the Georgians in Tbilisi on Friday and Ireland’s subsequent 4-0 victory over Gibraltar, which saw them leapfrog Gordon Strachan’s men into third place in Group D.
However, manager O’Neill was at pains to impress upon his players that they will have to fight every inch of the way in their remaining qualifiers against Georgia, Germany and Poland if they are to make it to the finals in France next summer.
He said: “I think the games are tough anyway, but it [the Georgia game] is essentially must-win for us. The results at the weekend have kept us well and truly in it – but we were never out of it before.
“I said before the match against Gibraltar that it was still in our own hands, albeit that we have got some really difficult games ahead of us. That’s still the case.”
Neighbours England became the first side to reach the finals with three games to spare when they trounced San Marino 6-0 on Saturday evening, while Wales and Northern Ireland seem poised to join them.
However, O’Neill insists that does not add pressure to Ireland’s task.
He said: “We are in no control of what happens elsewhere. It’s been a great effort by Wales, a great effort by Northern Ireland – and particularly Northern Ireland, it’s really, really fantastic, and well done them indeed.
“We have our own battle here. We are in a pretty difficult group – I think everybody would go along with that – but we are still fighting. We have three games left and we have to do something about it.”