Reaching World Cup would be the pinnacle for Martin O’Neill

Martin O’Neill says reaching next year’s World Cup in Russia would rank alongside his best achievements as Republic of Ireland manager.

O’Neill led Ireland to the last 16 of Euro 2016 - beating Italy in the group stages before being edged out by hosts France in the knockout stages.

Defeating Wales in Cardiff last month earned the Republic another crack at a major tournament, with Denmark standing in their way over a two-legged play-off.

Martin O'Neill today

Ahead of Saturday’s first leg in Copenhagen, O’Neill said: "It’s a great game for us.

"As far as we’re concerned qualifying for the Euros was a great achievement for us, and we thought that some of the performances were great.

"We forged a very strong reputation by playing brilliantly in that competition, getting there is big but the World Cup is something else as well so if we could make it it would be fantastic and obviously our opponents will feel the same as well."

O’Neill admitted he had sympathy for Northern Ireland after seeing them beaten by a controversial Switzerland penalty on Thursday night, but refused to go as far as endorsing video referees.

"It looked a pretty poor decision," he said of the referee adjudging Corry Evans had handled the ball. "We sympathise with that; if that is an event that ends up deciding the tie that will be very disappointing."

Asked about video referees, he added: "That’s for another day - it’s a long discussion. If you want to sit down and have a cup of tea with me I’ll discuss it but not tonight."

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