Football

Hunt relishes underdog tag

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Stephen Hunt and his Republic of Ireland team-mates will relish the tag of underdogs as they head into Wednesday night's clash with world champions Italy.

Ireland will run out at the San Nicola Stadium in Bari having slipped two points off the pace in the race for World Cup qualification from Group Eight as a result of Saturday evening's 1-1 draw with Bulgaria at Croke Park.

The 27-year-old Reading winger said: "I think we do perform better when we are underdogs. Down the years, history has proven that."

He added: "The last time we qualified for a World Cup, we qualified via a play-off, so we are no world champions.

"But we are a good team with good players playing in the top league in the world, so we are still confident we are going to win the group."

Ireland's hopes of topping the group were dealt a blow at the weekend when Kevin Kilbane's late own goal handed Bulgaria a point.

Although they remain in second place seven points clear of the chasing pack, Ireland need to prosper on their travels - they face Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus away in their next three qualifiers - if they are to cement that and stand a chance of overhauling Italy.

Hunt said: "We want to be top of the league, so it's important we don't lose in Italy and we get a result, for sure.

"Then you have to try to match their results all the way through the campaign until you play them at home.

"If you are within touching distance of Italy when you have them at home, you would fancy your chances."

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Topics:
Reading
Football
Championship
Stephen Hunt
Kevin Kilbane
Stephen Hunt

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