O’Neill: Disappointed but we will fight strongly
Martin O’Neill expressed his disappointment at Ireland’s defeat in Warsaw at the hands of Poland which sees Ireland being consigned to the playoff route to make it to the Euro 2016 finals.
Their famous win over world champions Germany in Dublin three days before gave them a great chance of securing automatic qualification, but Poland’s Robert Lewandowski had other plans.
“It is disappointing because beating Germany (1-0) gave us a run at it.
“Whoever we play (over two legs in the playoffs), we will have as good a chance as them.”
Grzegorz Krychowiak secured the lead for his side in the 13th minute before Jon Waters levelled from the penalty spot soon afterwards.
But Bayern Munich’s hitman Lewandowski was too strong, having scored 14 goals in his five previous outings.
“Before we played Germany if you had offered me third I would have taken it. But that win gave us the confidence to come and play here,” said O’Neill.
“We had to go for it in the second half, I actually thought we might have got a second goal, and that would have taken us through. Right until the end we were there but we were perhaps lacking that cohesiveness.
“Despite putting a lot of pressure on them it wasn’t to be. But we are still in there, we can still make it. We didn’t make it but we are still fighting strongly.”
A last-gasp headed attempt from Richard Keogh looked like it would give Ireland the 2-2 draw they needed, and O’Neill admitted that the clear-cut chance was the key opportunity.
“I’ve seen it back and and I’m naturally disappointed because I thought Richard probably would have scored and it is disappointing.
“We knew that at some stage or another, particularly in the last 15 minutes, that we would get an opportunity to score a goal.
“Richard heads the ball into the net, seven minutes left and we’re going to France. It’s that close. That was it. We didn’t take it. It’s gone but we live to fight another day.”
Ireland had captain John O’Shea sent off late on for a second yellow card and Walters will also miss the play-offs after his booking.
O’Neill called the suspensions unfair, and also criticised the Polish players for going down too easily.
“Poland a very fine side went down, but went down at every opportunity, as you would expect. It was very stop-start.
“Lewandowski is world-class player, and he knows the game. He knows when to control the game, and went to stop it. Poland should be very happy with him.”
O’Neill did question O’Shea’s motives for conceding the late foul due to his ‘experience’ but called on UEFA to look at the rules for suspensions.
“I didn’t think that the Polish players were going anywhere at the time. John could have used a bit of experience there if that was the case.
“Walters, Lewandowski’s played for the foul. He’s not only played for the foul, he’s gone down rather theatrically. I thought Jon was looking to get out of the way. That’s my take on it.
“So we lose those players. It seems crazy. I think it’s worth mentioning, very difficult to go 10 games without picking up suspensions.
“It seems unfair to carry it through to play-offs. One of the groups has only eight games. I think it’s something Uefa should have a look at.”