Republic of Ireland full-back Kevin Kilbane has hit out at the decision to seed the World Cup play-offs.
FIFA's decision to seed the draw, which was announced last week, means Ireland would come up against one of the stronger sides left in the play-offs, and that has come as a major blow.
"It is a joke, let's be honest, because they always seem to bend rules and change things. Little things like this come out over time," said Kilbane.
"If it was said at the start, I don't think there would be a problem. We would all know we were on a level footing.
"They seem to move the goalposts, really, don't they? I think it's wrong, I really do.
"But there is nothing I or anybody else in the squad can do about it. We just have to try to focus on these two games coming up."
If the Republic can beat Italy on Saturday - the sides drew 1-1 in Bari in April - they would go into next Wednesday's home clash with Montenegro with their hopes of automatic qualification still alive.
However, the news about the draw has left a bad taste in the mouths of players who have seen their chances of making it to next summer's finals in South Africa dealt a significant blow.
Kilbane said: "I genuinely don't think it will come into the lads' thoughts for these two games but, once they are out of the way, then you will start to reflect on it and it isn't right.
"It should have been decided at the start of the group. It's not a hard thing to say at the start that this is the way it is going to be. It is wrong that it always comes down to a last-minute thing."
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