'We’re a match for anyone in the play-offs,' says Martin O'Neill

'We’re a match for anyone in the play-offs,' says Martin O'Neill

IRELAND manager Martin O’Neill insists Ireland cannot afford to dwell on their missed opportunity to gain automatic qualification for next summer’s European Championships.

After last week’s incredible 1-0 victory over World Cup holders Germany, a win or high-scoring draw in Poland on Sunday would have been enough to send the boys in green through without the need for a nerve-jangling play-off.

However, a 2-1 defeat in Warsaw saw the Republic just miss, falling one goal short of the task as a 2-2 draw would have demoted the Poles to third place in Group D.

As it is, O’Neill’s men will take their place in Sunday’s draw for their seventh international play-off appearance in the last 19 years.

Tricky potential opponents include Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Slovenia, Hungary, Sweden and Croatia to name but a few, although O’Neill insists Ireland are a match for anyone.

"Whoever we play, we will have as good a chance as them," he said. "We are still there and whoever we play, we will be as ready as we possibly can be.

"Before we played Germany if you had offered me third I would have taken it. We had to go for it in the second-half [against Poland], I actually thought we might have got a second goal, and that would have taken us through. Right until the end we were there but we were perhaps lacking that cohesiveness.

"Despite putting a lot of pressure on them it wasn't to be. But we are still in there, we can still make it. We didn't make it automatically but we are still fighting strongly."

First-half goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Robert Lewandowski, either side of a Jon Walters penalty, gave Poland the edge, but O’Neill was left frustrated with their antics.

"Poland, who are a very, very fine side, went down at every opportunity, as you would expect them to, to cut the game,” he said. “The game was stop-start a lot of the match and in the second half, it was very much that case, so I will draw great solace and great determination from the players and their efforts.”

Whoever Ireland are paired with on Sunday, O’Neill will be without key players John O’Shea and Walters, who are both suspended for the first leg.