Martin O’Neill has warned the Republic of Ireland that relying on their away goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina to secure a ticket to the Euro 2016 finals would be “a recipe for disaster”.
The Republic returned from Zenica on Friday night with a 1-1 draw having come within three minutes of a victory which might have made their task in the second leg at the Aviva Stadium tonight slightly more straightforward.
They nevertheless enjoy a marginal advantage having scored in Bosnia, although their 63-year-old manager has insisted they cannot afford to play for the 0-0 draw which would guarantee a trip to France along with England, Northern Ireland and Wales next summer.
Asked about his pride should his team complete the job, O’Neill said: “My pride in the side has been there from the start. I think the players have wanted to play.
“There was a feeling beforehand that some players just weren’t that bothered about playing for their country.
“I haven’t witnessed it and I haven’t experienced it in the two years that I’ve been here.
“Obviously, it would be terrific if we could do it, but I have to be very, very mindful of the fact that we are a long way away from doing that.
“We have to put things into perspective: Bosnia are capable of scoring, they could wipe that advantage, that away goal that we have within minutes of the game, and then suddenly they are on the front foot.
“If we think that we can keep them out for 90 minutes and camp ourselves just outside our own penalty area, that would be a recipe for disaster.
“We have to consider being really on the front foot, genuinely, and going and trying to win this game, and that’s it.
“If you’d thought that we’d have to win in the Aviva for the final time, you probably would have taken that.”
O’Neill will go into the game with Jonathan Walters available after suspension.
John O’Shea, who was also banned for the first leg, and Shane Long trained in Abbotstown yesterday morning as they continue their respective recoveries from hamstring and foot injuries.
For the likes of 34-year-old O’Shea and skipper Robbie Keane, who is a year older, it could prove to be their final appearance in an Ireland shirt if they do not make the finals, but there will be no room for sentiment in the manager’s team selection.
O’Neill said: “That’s called tough luck, just tough luck. I’m not going to put players in because it might be their last international game.
“I’ll put them in hopefully on merit and hopefully the experience that they have garnered over the last 10 or 12 or 15 years could stand us in a bit of decent stead. That would be the reason.
“I think the motivation is there. If we are beaten here, it won’t be through lack of trying.
“We might lack a few things in our side, but a bit of strength of character I think is there.”
Long, who has not played any football since limping off in Poland on October 11, could prove vital with Daryl Murphy, who started in Zenica, sitting out training on Sunday with a calf injury, although O’Neill confirmed that was purely precautionary.
However, the Ireland boss will have to come up with a team which strikes the right balance between potency in attack and solidity at the back with right-winger Edin Visca a particular focus following his eye-catching display at the Bilino Polje Stadium.
He said: “They raid down the right-hand side because they’ve got a very, very fine right winger.
“What they want to do is try to get it out to the little lad, who is exceptionally talented.
“I think he could cause problems to anybody.”