michael O’Neill has refused to get embroiled in a war of words with Fabio Capello ahead of Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying opener in Moscow.
O’Neill’s men kick-off the Road to Brazil with a daunting clash with Capello’s Russia at the Lokomotiv Stadium (kick-off 4pm BST).
Russia have continually played down the threat posed by O’Neill’s men in Group F.
On Wednesday striker Alexander Kerzhakov admitted he had “never really heard of Northern Ireland”, while yesterday coach Capello continued to fan the flames with more derogatory comments.
Commenting on his side’s lack of firepower for today’s game, Capello said: “We do only have two strikers and we will maybe call one up for the next game (against Israel on Tuesday).
“But it’s only Northern Ireland and I expect us to be fit enough against them.”
Northern Ireland boss O’Neill dismissed Capello’s jibe, insisting his priorities are elsewhere.
“It doesn’t really concern me to be honest,” he said.
“Our focus is solely on ourselves and how we prepare and perform on the night.
“Managers will have their opinions – it’s our job to change those opinions with the display we put in.”
O’Neill also responded loosely to reports striker Kerzhakov barely knew of Northern Ireland.
“I’m sure he’s played outside Russia. I believe he’s played in Spain for a period so hopefully his geography is better than that.
“I would assume most of the Russian players will have heard of Northern Ireland.
“It doesn’t really concern me at all though, our focus is with our own players. You can’t change that or alter any opinions the opposition hold.
“We’ll deal with that when the game takes place. All those things are really side issues for us at this moment.”
Capello, meanwhile, shrugged his way through his press conference in Moscow, choosing to place the weight of expectation on his players.
Russia have brought in Spartak Moscow left-back Dimitri Kombarov to replace ex-Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov.
Former Coventry City captain Sammy Clingan has been drafted into the Northern Ireland side.
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