Irish smile while Welsh mourn

A fired-up midfielder James McClean after putting Ireland ahead in the 57th minute in Cardiff. His was the only goal of the game against Wales and ensured the Irish took second place in Group D behind Serbia to enter the play-offs.
A fired-up midfielder James McClean after putting Ireland ahead in the 57th minute in Cardiff. His was the only goal of the game against Wales and ensured the Irish took second place in Group D behind Serbia to enter the play-offs.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Coach O'Neill says while they fear all opponents in play-offs, he sees others not wanting to play them

CARDIFF • Republic of Ireland coach Martin O'Neill fears "every single" potential opponent in the World Cup play-offs but he thinks few teams will want to face his side after they eliminated Wales.

Ireland won 1-0 in Cardiff on Monday night, courtesy of James McClean's 57th-minute strike to take second place in Group D at Wales' expense and secure one of the eight berths in next month's European play-offs.

And after becoming the first opposition manager to prevail in a competitive game at Cardiff City Stadium in more than four years, O'Neill was upbeat.

"I don't think everybody would want to play us," he told reporters.

"Do I fear teams? Absolutely. Every single one of them. I've always feared teams. That's the way to be. Then we go out and beat them. Or so I try.

"I don't think anybody would want to play Italy or Portugal, although Portugal might beat Switzerland (in this morning's clash and qualify automatically).

"And there's about six others I'd rather not have. But I am delighted to be in it."

SIMPLY THE BEST

His drive and determination have been a trademark for us. He's been magnificent in the tournament for us.

MARTIN O'NEILL, Ireland coach, on James McClean, who scored the match winner in Cardiff.

O'Neill also hailed the "character" of his team and heaped praise on West Brom winger McClean, who had also scored vital goals in away wins over Moldova and Austria.

"He's just been magnificent," O'Neill added. "His energy - when you see James getting tired in a game with 10 minutes to go, you realise the rest of the players must be really tired because James just keeps going.

"His drive and determination have been a trademark for us. He's been magnificent in the tournament for us."

Beaten coach Chris Coleman said he was "absolutely gutted" and predicted the nation would be "in mourning" after Wales fell short in their attempt to reach a first World Cup since 1958.

Coleman, who led Wales to a stunning semi-final finish at Euro 2016, is out of contract at the end of the current season and he was evasive when asked if he might decide to stay on.

 

LET'S WAIT AND SEE

My contract is until the summer but right now, I'm thinking about the experience. I'll go back to my family and take a bit of time. When the dust settles, we'll see where we go.

CHRIS COLEMAN, Wales coach, pondering his future after being in charge for nearly six years.

"I can't say right now about my future because I'm not thinking about it," he said. "It's six years I've been in charge, or coming up to it at Christmas, and I'm thinking about the fact there's a dressing room full of devastated players and staff.

"There's a chance I can (stay) and a chance I won't. I can't give an answer right now. There will be a conversation in due course. My contract is until the summer but right now, I'm thinking about the experience. I'll go back to my family and take a bit of time. When the dust settles, we'll see where we go."

Group D winners Serbia had to endure a nerve-jangling 1-0 home win over Georgia, and they had substitute Aleksandar Prijovic to thank for his 74th-minute goal.

The result, celebrated ecstatically in the cauldron of Red Star's Rajko Mitic stadium in Belgrade, left the Balkan nation top of the group with 21 points, two more than Ireland.

It is the second time Serbia have reached the Finals as an independent nation, having been knocked out in the group stage of the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

The draw for the two-legged November play-offs takes place next Tuesday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Irish smile while Welsh mourn'. Print Edition | Subscribe