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
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) October 7, 2015
“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.”
Germany coach Joachim Low believes Liverpool are set to make a great addition by appointing Jurgen Klopp.
Negotiations are continuing with the former Borussia Dortmund boss with a view to having him in place by the end of the week. Klopp is expected on Merseyside today to agree a three-year deal on £5m-a-year (Dh28m).
Low thinks the similarities between the two clubs will help Klopp to adjust quickly.
“He had an extraordinarily successful time in Dortmund. He released loads of emotions in the Dortmund crowd,” said World Cup winner Low.
“If you look at it from afar, there are some parallels between Dortmund and Liverpool with the fantastic supporters’ culture. Klopp would be a great addition to any team.”
Klopp’s first game will be away at Tottenham on Saturday, October 17 and he will become only the second German manager in Premier League history after Felix Magath at Fulham.
Centre-back Mats Hummels, who joined Dortmund from Bayern Munich in 2008 and was a key figure in their success, had nothing but praise for his former boss.
“There is no doubt about it, he is a fantastic coach, he’s absolutely great,” he said. “You thought, ‘What is he going to do post-Dortmund?’, then clubs like Liverpool certainly came into the frame.
“He lives, eats, breathes and thinks football day after day. He will be a fantastic addition and I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed for the next step in his career.”
Sepp Blatter has been told he is facing a 90-day provisional suspension from FIFA's ethics committee – a move which would finally spell the end of his time as FIFA president.
FIFA's ethics committee has been meeting this week to discuss whether Blatter and Michel Platini should be provisionally suspended. It is understood the investigatory arm has recommended a 90-day suspension for Blatter but that the German adjudicatory judge Joachim Eckert has yet to make a final decision.
Decaffeinated derby, Barca conspiracy
Klaus Stohlker, a friend and adviser to Blatter, told The Guardian: "What we know is that President Blatter was told he could be suspended for 90 days."
The pair are being investigated by Swiss prosecutors and the ethics committee over a 2million Swiss franc (£1.35million) payment signed off by FIFA president Blatter to UEFA president Platini.
Blatter has had criminal proceedings opened against him by the Swiss attorney general over the case and for allegedly selling World Cup TV rights to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner for 20 times below their true value.
It is not known if any action has been recommended against Platini.
Stohlker said Blatter was still "on this throne" for the time being.
He added: "President Blatter has not flown away from his throne but is still in power. It's a very difficult situation. It's not good for global football.
"The first floor [investigatory chamber] has taken the decision today – they have taken the decision. That's why the second [adjudicatory chamber] needs to take the decision.
"He is quiet, he is reluctant, he is fully prepared to take his responsibilities. He is the only one who can lead FIFA. The picture for 90 days is not pleasant."
The payment to Platini being investigated was made in February 2011 for work he carried out as Blatter's technical advisor more than nine years previously, between 1999 and 2002.
Senegal's former sports minister Abdoulaye Diop, a member of the ethics committee, told his country's state news agency APS that the cases of Blatter, Platini and FIFA presidential hopeful Chung Mong-Joon would be dealt with this week – the meetings are due to last until Friday.
Meanwhile, UEFA's head of communications said Platini does not feel the need to publicly justify his £1.35million payment from FIFA despite questions being raised about the nine-year delay in receiving the money.
Platini has not publicly explained the reason for such a lengthy delay beyond that when he started his role as Blatter's advisor in 1999 he was told "that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of FIFA's financial situation at that time".
Platini says he is still determined to run for the FIFA presidency and has provided all the necessary information to the investigating authorities.
UEFA's head of communications Pedro Pinto, speaking in London at the Leaders in Sport business summit, said: "The president currently feels that he has given satisfactory explanations to the authorities that are dealing with this case.
"Publicly, he feels there is nothing else to add because he feels he has does nothing wrong and therefore does not need to justify himself publicly at the moment."
Nominations for the FIFA presidency needed to be submitted by October 26 with each candidate nominated by at least five national associations.
Franco Carraro, the Italian who was the former chairman of FIFA's internal audit committee, said he could not recall seeing any paperwork about the payment to Platini and said the nine-year delay was "abnormal"
Carraro told La Repubblica: "I was the person checking the accounts, but I do not remember seeing an item of expenditure in favour of Platini for his consultancy.
"And the timing of the payment, being nine years late, is objectively abnormal."