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No room for error: Ireland must be 'really focused, really strong', says O'Neill

The Ireland boss also hailed the achievement of John O’Shea, who could win his 100th cap tonight.

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill will be demanding the absolute highest standards from his players in tonight’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Germany.

Ireland go in to tonight’s match in Gelsenkirchen three points ahead of the reigning World Champions in Group D, but in the knowledge that no test will come close to what awaits them from Jogi Löw’s side.

“It’s a great occasion for us. We’re delighted to be here,” said O’Neill before dispensing with the niceties and cutting down to business.

Martin O'Neill with Robbie Keane 13/10/2014 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“More importantly, we want to go and perform. Genuinely want to perform.

“It’s easy words here from me, but we have to go and perform tomorrow. We have to be really focused, really strong. Concentration, absolutely at its height.

“Little breaks here and there as we’ve noticed, sometimes teams break you down and you get a little bit of luck and they’ve shot wide. We have to work on the assumption [that Germany won't].

Ireland’s own results against Georgia and Gibraltar together with Germany’s defeat to Poland have cause a slight swell of optimism in some quarters. Even the World Champions are beatable as it turns out, but O’Neill pointed out that Germany’s processes remained sound despite the result escaping them.

“Even in the game against Poland, they’ve had more possession. They’ve had everything in their favour other than the fact that they didn’t score goals. And they’ll be out to put that right.”

“Let’s not beat around the bush. They’re a top quality team with top quality players. It’s only four months since they held the World Championship trophy aloft. We’re going in with some confidence and as a sort of game-plan to the game, we hope we can frustrate and it can work to our advantage.”

O’Neill was vehemently opposed to offering any hints as to his team selection for tonight’s 20.45 (19.45 Irish time) kick-off. But he did laud senior defender John O’Shea as the Waterford man aims to become just the sixth Irish international to reach 100 caps.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to play 100 times for your country. If and when he reaches that milestone, well done him,” said O’Neill, adding, “only five players have done it in the history of Irish football – that might tell you how difficult it is.

Robbie Keane hands over the captaincy to John OÕShea Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“You have to have a strong career, you have to go through it for a fairly lengthy period without injury and I’m quite sure that over that period of time, there might have been many managers with a different approach, and the fact you’ve been picked by all those managers might suggest something.”

Robbie Keane, whose starting place is also still up for decision according to O’Neill, passed that milestone some time back. His message to his squad?

“You’re playing against one of the best teams in the world. Go out and enjoy it. As long as you know what your jobs are, go out and give it a go.”

The captain added: ”We’ve got players in this squad that are very comfortable in what they’re doing at club level and they can bring it to the international stage, no question.

“In the last two games we’ve got great results so we’re fairly confident we can come here and get something out of the game. Gonna be difficult – no question about that – but we’ve got a lot of confidence at the moment.”

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Sean Farrell

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