Martin O’Neill admits he would settle for a Euro 2016 play-off place now as he prepares to send his Republic of Ireland team into battle with Germany and Poland.
Victory over either side would guarantee Ireland at least third place in Group D and a crack at making next summer’s finals in France, while automatic qualification is not an impossibility.
They could still get there even if they lose both games as they enjoy a four-point advantage over closest rivals Scotland, but O’Neill is refusing to accept that they cannot do the job themselves ahead of on Thursday night’s clash with the Germans at the Aviva Stadium.
He said: “I’d take my chance in the play-offs if we can get into them. Who knows what might materialise?
“We have got two very difficult games coming up. We are playing the world champions, players who are playing Champions League football on a regular basis, players who have won a World Cup, players who have got the experience of going away from home and dealing with any given situation, and they are improving.
“And we are playing Poland, who are very, very strong. We are playing Poland away from home, two difficult games.
“Does that mean that we just give up? Absolutely not. We are going to go and show a bit of fighting spirit and a bit of ability and a bit of self-belief – which is very, very important – a bit of self-belief to know that when you have the ball, as we will have the ball at certain stages, that we try to manoeuvre it because we will get a chance to play.
Seamus Coleman ruled out of Republic of Ireland’s European qualifier against Germany but could be fit to face Poland – more on #SSNHQ
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“The Germans are very, very good, but does that mean it’s impossible? Absolutely not.”
Ireland will be without firstchoice full-back Seamus Coleman because of a hamstring injury and suspended midfield duo Glenn Whelan and James McClean for a fixture which could bring back bad memories for some members of the squad.
Joachim Low insisted Germany are on their guard having seen John O’Shea snatch a shock away draw for the Republic with an injurytime equaliser the last time the sides met.
He said: “Ireland are famous for defending very well, very strong defence, and if you look at the past encounters between our two nations, in many more cases it was more matches of attrition than anything else.
“Ireland know how to make life hard for the opposition. They are very robust, very physical, but they can also score on the counter.”