Stokes: Euro qualifying a challenge to look forward to

Stokes: Euro qualifying a challenge to look forward to

Anthony Stokes insists the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying section is too close to call.

Martin O’Neill’s squad were drawn in Group D alongside Germany, Scotland, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar.

Celtic striker Stokes expects Germany to top the six-team pool but says the race for the second automatic qualifying slot could go right to the wire.

He said: “It’s a difficult group, as most of them are. But I’m sure we will be able to compete and I’m looking forward to it.

“Germany will be the firm favourites while Poland have a very strong squad, so it should be interesting. It’s too hard to say which way it will go. Every game will be important. It will be one of those groups that goes right to the wire.”

Stokes could find himself facing off against Parkhead team-mates Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths when the Republic travel to Hampden to face the Scots on Friday, November 14.

“There’s already been a bit of banter with the boys,” said Stokes. “I never used to get on too well with Broony (Brown) when I was playing against him so who knows what will happen this time.

“But he’s a great lad and I know his qualities. He will give us some stiff opposition.

“I think it will be two great games. It’s two closely-matched teams. You never know how it will go on the night.”

Stokes found himself ostracised by former Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni when he pulled out of a Carling Nations Cup game in May 2011 citing fatigue.

He only made his return against Germany last October after two and a half years in the wilderness when the Italian was sacked a month previously.

Former Celtic boss Martin O’Neill is now in charge but Stokes admits he still has work to do to make himself a regular for his country.

“I want to make an impact and I want to do as well as I possibly can in training when I get there to give myself the best chance to play,” he said.

“I’ve played a few competitive games but I’ve never really had a spot in the team or had a chance to go to a tournament, so for me, to get through this group and reach the finals would mean everything to me. It’s something I have always wanted.”

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