O'Neill calls on Ireland to channel spirit of Lille in crunch Cardiff clash

“It’s not that far back in the memory that the players shouldn’t consider it when we are approaching this game.”

Republic of Ireland Training and Press Conference - Cardiff City Stadium Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, with Darren Randolph to his right at today's press conference. Source: Nick Potts

– Paul Dollery reports from Cardiff 

MARTIN O’NEILL HOPES one of the most memorable wins in Ireland’s footballing history can provide some inspiration for his team in tomorrow night’s decisive World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium.

A win in the Welsh capital in their final Group D fixture would guarantee Ireland a play-off spot — or automatic qualification if Georgia manage to spring a major surprise by beating Serbia in Belgrade.

“It compares very favourably with a lot of big matches that I’ve been involved in because it’s a World Cup,” O’Neill said this afternoon at Ireland’s pre-match press conference at the home of Cardiff City Football Club.

“It doesn’t really get much bigger than that. We put ourselves in a position where we have to win the game and I think from the way things are going, probably Wales will be exactly in the same position, so it’s all to play for. Big, big game ahead.”

That only a victory will suffice for Ireland has evoked memories of the game against Italy in Lille last summer. Needing a win to progress to the knockout stages at Euro 2016, Ireland got the result they needed thanks to a late Robbie Brady header.

“We have got 90 minutes in which to try to get a goal,” O’Neill said. “I think our approach will be quite similar to the one we had against Italy in Lille, where we knew before the game that a win was the only thing that mattered for us.

“I thought we played with a lot of verve, a lot of determination, got out, closed Italy down very, very quickly — and a lot of that will be necessary tomorrow night -– but we created some chances and finally took one with five minutes to go in an epic game.

“It’s not that far back in the memory that the players shouldn’t consider it when we are approaching this game. But obviously, whatever gameplan we have we are going to try to utilise it as best we possibly can.

“I think there’s a bit of everything in it. I think there’s a bit of patience. I think you can be too patient, but at the same time, at the end of 90 minutes, we have got to find ourselves in front. I think we are capable of doing that.”

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With Robbie Brady and James McClean set to return after missing Friday’s 2-0 win against Moldova, O’Neill also reported no fresh injury concerns ahead of tomorrow night’s game.

Wales, semi-finalists at Euro 2016, are set to be without star player Gareth Bale. The Real Madrid attacker also missed their 1-0 win away to Georgia on Friday due to a calf injury.

“It doesn’t really worry me because we have to win the game,” O’Neill said when asked about Wales being regarded as favourites.

“They are playing at home, so they have an obvious advantage there. But we had to take that into consideration when the group format was first put in front of us and it’s there for tomorrow night, so it’s all to play for.”

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Paul Dollery

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