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'Playing strong teams is the best preparation for Euro qualifiers' - O'Neill

Ireland take on Costa Rica tonight before a final summer friendly with Portugal in New York on Tuesday.

O'Neill looking relaxed yesterday afternoon.
O'Neill looking relaxed yesterday afternoon.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill is confident that this summer’s friendlies is the best preparation ahead of the start of the Euro 2016 qualifiers in September.

The Boys in Green are in the middle of a difficult set of matches — having lost 2-1 to Turkey in Dublin, they put in a spirited performance in the 0-0 draw with Italy at Craven Cottage last Saturday.

Later tonight (1am Irish time), the first of two games in the US against World Cup-bound opponents sees Ireland face Costa Rica in Philadelphia before a meeting with Portugal in New Jersey on Tuesday.

“It’s funny how stats quickly mount up,” he responded after being asked about the importance of getting a win in his pre-match press conference.

“We’re playing some friendly games, and we’ve chosen the opposition, so this conversation was going to come up at some stage because we haven’t been able to win a game or two.

“My own view is that we should have won the past three games. The Serbia game we missed some great chances, likewise against Turkey and the Italy game, which I just played back last night, we definitely should have won.

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“If we can the level of performance up at this stage, accepting the fact that eventually when you step into the Euro Championships the results are the be all and end all.

Ireland have dropped to 70th, their lowest position ever, in the FIFA rankings and O’Neill was then asked if getting victories should be looked at in terms of our future seedings for qualifiers.

He added: “I don’t want to be pernickety but, if that’s the case, then over the course of the next two years, if we go play friendly games, then I’ll choose the easiest opposition at home to play if that helps (ranking).

“That’s not how I see it. You said the co-efficient takes place over 4/5 years, I’ve been in job 7 months and we’ve chosen pretty difficult games here.

“Not that it matters to me but if we’d gone the other way and chosen slight opposition on international level, if you give me 3 or 4 teams we could have beat, I’m not sure that would be the best preparation for European Championships.

“Do I think this is the best preparation? I do, yes.”

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Ben Blake

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