John O’Shea wants the Republic of Ireland to show a bit more cynicism in their quest to get back on the increasingly rocky road to Rio.
A naively conceded goal in stoppage time, when Ireland gave away possession from a free-kick at the far corner of the pitch, ultimately cost them two valuable points against Austria at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.
And taking any positives from the 2-2 draw, when a win was snatched from their grasp so late on, wasn’t easy. But O’Shea, who skippered the side on the night in the absence of the injured Robbie Keane, was philosophical, insisting the younger players in the squad must learn from it.
“That’s not how you finish international games off,” said O’Shea after the Waterford man won his 86th cap. “When the board went up for injury time, we had to be cynical, take yellow cards, start wasting time, keeping the ball at the corner flag. We had the perfect opportunity to do that and we were trying to get the message across, but unfortunately we couldn’t do that.
“Especially when it comes up to injury time, we should be willing to try anything. But I think the referee was buying a lot of their screams and jumps. Maybe we could have got another throw-in or free kick to make use of it.
“(But) we gave Austria a bit of encouragement and rather than frustrate them, we frustrated ourselves.
“In the dressing room afterwards when the frustration settled, the lads realised that we can go to Austria (and win) and obviously we have Sweden at home. We have to win those games if we want to qualify.
“We were only a few seconds or half a minute away from winning the game, so it’s hugely frustrating. But we’re not out of the group yet.
“‘When the dust settled, it was a little bit frustrating but you realise then that we still have a home game against Sweden and are away to Austria, and we feel we can go and win those games.
“We haven’t left ourselves with much margin for error, which is the unfortunate part, but the fact we can go and win those matches now is something the lads have got to believe in.
“We are by no means out of it. It’s hugely disappointing and frustrating, but we’re not out of it.”
Left-back Marc Wilson also remains upbeat about qualification, insisting the glass very much remains half full.
“I think now, after seeing Sweden and Austria, and we’ve obviously got them later in the year, I definitely think they are games we can win. We should have won the game on Tuesday night. But they got the lucky goal. But I definitely think they are two games that we can win.
“We’ve got Sweden here and Austria away. They are two decent teams, but I think among all the lads we feel we can beat them. Obviously, I felt we could have beaten Sweden the other night as well, we could have been on six points. But obviously it’s not the rub of the green we’ve got.”
Despite the frustration of dropping two points on Tuesday, Wilson believes it won’t damage confidence.
“No. I think this week has been really positive,” said the Stoke City defender. “All the lads have been terrific. Training has been good, there is a bit of a buzz about the place again. So I don’t think it will affect the lads.
“Obviously, they are upset now and everyone is disappointed. But we’ve got to put it behind us now and look forward to the next game.”
Conversely, it was a massively encouraging point for Austria, lifting them into second place on goal difference, and a major confidence boost ahead of their meeting with Sweden in Vienna in June.
“Our aim coming over to Ireland was not to lose the game, so picking up a point is huge for us,” said Austria’s Aston Villa striker Andreas Weimann. “To score in the last minute was a bonus, but we worked hard for it and played well in the second half.
“We have Sweden next and that is a really big game for us. Because there is so little between the three teams now, we have to beat Sweden. And we will take a lot of confidence from this result against Ireland.
“We had belief we could finish second in the group even before we played Ireland. We’ve a good squad of players and we feel it is very open between ourselves, Ireland and Sweden.
“This is a huge point for us, but we believed that we could get it. Now, our hopes of qualifying for the World Cup are still alive and that is a huge positive.”
Defender Emanuel Pogatetz, who gave away the first half penalty for a clumsy foul on Shane Long which got Ireland back into the game, agreed that the result hurts Ireland more.
“Definitely,” said the West Ham loanee. “Ireland were at home and to concede an equaliser in the last minute always hurts. But the three teams, Ireland, Austria and Sweden, all have chances to get the second place.
“I’m happy for us that we got the draw, because our hopes are still alive. But I think Ireland can still qualify as well, so everything is still open in the group.”
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