Martin O’Neill has warned the Republic of Ireland team they are not good enough to be complacent ahead of their Euro 2016 showdown with Gibraltar.
Ireland welcome the Gibraltarians to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday looking to further remind the visitors of the giant leap they have taken after their 7-0 drubbing by Poland last month in their first competitive fixture as a football nation.
But while most commentators are expecting Ireland to brush the Group D minnows aside with the merest of fuss, O’Neill is taking nothing for granted.
He said: “I must admit, I do have a little smile to myself. Gibraltar, I know they have got some part-time players playing in their team, but the little player playing on the left-hand side stepped inside the Polish right centre-back with two minutes to go to half-time and fired this shot about three inches over the bar which would have made it 1-1 in the game. It might have been an interesting tussle.
“You haven’t seen it – we have had to study it because it’s my job. The game was exceptionally difficult for Poland to break down.
“Poland are a decent side. We, seriously, will not be good enough to be complacent, certainly not. We are not good enough to be complacent.
“We are expected to win, don’t get me wrong. There’s a difference. We are expected to win the game and that’s our intention. But that’s it. We might not be able to break them down as easily as one might think.”
That message has been drummed into the players in Portmarnock this week with particular emphasis on video analysis of the first half of the Poles’ win, which proved far from straightforward.
Nevertheless, O’Neill’s men will head into the fixture, unusually for them, as overwhelming favourites and while refusing to count their chickens, knowing the onus will be on them to secure the three points they need to go with those they collected in dramatic fashion in Georgia last month ahead of Tuesday’s daunting trip to Germany.
O’Neill said: “The emphasis is on us to win the game, of course, we know that. Gibraltar are not expected to beat us in the match. We are hoping to be able to win the game.
“Traditionally, we are not phenomenal goalscorers, so we have to be creating chances in the game, because we will miss one or two.
“We have to be really positive from moment one, we also have to be a wee bit careful at the back not to leave ourselves stretched because a couple of times, they broke clearly on Poland and had those opportunities – they didn’t finish them and obviously got tired towards the end of the game.
“I think they will have learned a lot from that particular experience. But let’s be honest, we should win the game, we are expected to win the game, so I am not going to hide away from that.”
Victory at the Aviva is a must if Ireland are to launch a sustained assault on second place in the group with they, Scotland, Georgia and Poland under no illusions that barring a shock of epic proportions, the Germans will end the campaign on top of the pile.
To that end, the victory in Tbilisi, which was secured by Aiden McGeady’s last-gasp strike, could prove invaluable.
O’Neill said: “There was such a high of winning the game, we could have almost flown back without the plane.
“We won the match, it was great. It was absolutely fantastic to win it in the manner in which we did, for McGeady to come up with an a blindingly brilliant goal to win it.
“It gave us three points and you never know, those three points might eventually be crucial to us. Who knows at this stage?”
For all that the opposition on Saturday may not be the most taxing, O’Neill has issues to address with uncapped 20-year-old Brian Lenihan the only specialist right-back in the squad in the absence of the injured Seamus Coleman, while central defender Richard Keogh has been ruled out of the game, and almost certainly the the trip to Gelsenkirchen, with a hamstring problem.