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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 16 September, 2019

O'Neill: Let's focus on getting three points, not on our goal difference

Ireland have a patchy record against “minnow” nations, and Martin O’Neill is giving Gibraltar all due respect.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL WON’T gamble with his gameplan to chase goals against Gibraltar.

The minnows — who are playing in their first qualification campaign and aren’t ranked by FIFA — were stuffed 7-0 by Poland last month.

It puts Ireland under pressure to boost their own goal difference on Saturday and avoid losing ground on their Group D rivals.

O’Neill said: “We’re at home, we’re expected to go forward, we’re expected to attack, and it’s a game that’s obviously of significant importance to us. That I will deal with.

“We’ll try and win that game if we can. It’s really important for us to be going to Germany with six points, however we do it.

He added: “Teams have lost championships on goal difference but they didn’t set out on the very first day of the season thinking that might happen.

“During the course of the competition, there might be another game where might you get a little bit of luck or a bit of ill luck.

You have to try to win the game first.

Gibraltar held Poland to a single goal in the first half when the sides met in Faro last month.

But the floodgates soon opened and Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski bagged four after the restart.

O’Neill and the squad have watched the video of that game and are prepared for a dogged defensive effort.

“If you saw the game against Poland, you’d understand what the Polish people were saying,” he explained. They caused lots and lots of problems, got loads of men behind the ball.

They showed a great determination in the game and until Poland eventually got the second goal, they couldn’t have relaxed in the game.

“Us winning this match is of vital importance to us.”

A number of positional questions are still up in the air, particularly at right-back and in central midfield with Everton duo Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy ruled out by injury.

Hull youngster Brian Lenihan has joined the squad following his surprise senior call-up but it looks more likely that either John O’Shea or David Meyler will be asked to slot in for Coleman.

Jeff Hendrick is one of the midfield options but he has only made two substitute appearances for Derby County since coming back from a dislocated shoulder, and O’Neill is concerned that his fitness could post “a slight problem.”

“He hasn’t played that much but he’s improving all the time.”

With two days of training still to come, O’Neill is keeping all of his options open.

“How many times do I have to say it? I’m not going to give you a team on Wednesday morning.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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