Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has warned that his team will have to scrap for “every single particle” if they are to realise their dream of a second successive trip to the European Championship finals.
The Republic received a timely boost to their hopes of taking part in Euro 2016 in France on Friday evening when a 4-0 victory over Gibraltar, coupled with Scotland’s 1-0 defeat in Georgia, left them in third place in Group D and with one hand on a play-off berth.
However, while ambitions may have been rekindled, O’Neill knows that that will change rapidly if they fail to beat the Georgians at the Aviva Stadium on Monday ahead of next month’s double-header against leaders Germany and early pace-setters Poland.
He said: “We all have a habit of getting ahead of ourselves – I heard something one day that it is ours to lose. We have got a game against Germany, we have got a game against Poland, we have got this tough game here (on Monday night) against a resurgent Georgia side who will come here with plenty of confidence – they have just beaten Scotland.
“Things are difficult for us. At this minute, we are not capable of being like Spain, of being able to wipe the floor with somebody. We have to fight for every single particle there’s going.
“We have to battle for it. We have to find some ways of winning football matches. We are in there, we are in there fighting – we were even if Scotland had won, we were still in the mix.
“But we are far from anything, anything at all. We have to try to win (on Monday night). I can’t even consider October at all until we get points on the board. We need to win – that has to be our total and utter focus, and that is the players’.
“Whether we do that or not, whether we are a bit unlucky, we hit the post a couple of times like we did against Poland and don’t get the result, or whether Georgia come out actually and just sweep us off the field, that’s something we don’t know.
“But I think we are ready for the game.”
O’Neill’s caution has not been lost on his players, who know any slip-up against Georgia could prove fatal, although their belief that they can qualify remains intact.
Skipper Robbie Keane said: “We put pressure on ourselves anyway from the start of campaign. We are quite capable of qualifying out of this group, so the players are well aware that the pressure has always been on from the start, so I don’t think it’s changed us too much as a group of players.
“It’s a must-win game, there’s no question. It’s a massive, massive game. But all we can do is be prepared right for it, and, since the first day we walked in through this door, the players have been ready.”
O’Neill is likely to make changes after using the depth of his squad for the game in Faro, although at least one of them was enforced as full-back Seamus Coleman sat out with a tight hamstring.
However, he trained at Abbotstown on Sunday morning and could be available to replace Cyrus Christie, who scored the opening goal at the Estadio Algarve.
O’Neill said: “Seamus has done a little bit (on Sunday). He’s feeling much, much better and at this moment, it looks as if he’s going to be okay.
“Cyrus did brilliantly, really brilliantly, for us. He got the important first goal, obviously had a big moment just before half-time when he back-headed one that could have been very, very dangerous for us.
“But I think think if Seamus, as seems, is fit, Seamus would play. Cyrus is great – he’s got a good future ahead of him – but Seamus is a real quality player.”