Going into Friday night's European Championship Qualifiers, Martin O'Neill was preparing his Ireland side for a routine win against minnow's Gibraltar with the result expecting to have little effect on Group D. But a change in fortune in Georgia opened up the group once again as Scotland fluffed their lines, handing Ireland, and Martin O'Neill a lifeline.
The closest group in qualifying is nowhere near sewn up yet as Germany and Poland battle it out for top spot with even Ireland and Scotland (albeit unlikely) mathematical contenders. O'Neill is still looking over his shoulder but the boost in seeing Strachan's men falter in Georgia on Friday night gives the under fire boss breathing room.
Most Irish fans had written off their side after Scotland nicked four vital points in their two games however a buoyant Georgia team not only boosted O'Neill's chances of qualifying but also gave the Georgian's a glimmer of hope as surely now the Irish team look on for the second automatic position as Poland sit two points clear.
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The favourable position may not last long for Ireland, as consistently weak defensive problems coupled with toothless attacking threat have seen O'Neill's team beat only Georgia and Gibraltar in the group, needing a late Aidan McGeady goal in the first tie in Georgia.
However with the return game ahead at the Aviva in Dublin, O'Neill's team must be ready to pounce and secure at least a play-off place, as for now the Irish control their own fate in the group.
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Some promising performances from the likes of Wes Hoolahan and old guard Robbie Keane are signs that the Irish are peaking at the right time as vital games against Germany and Poland are still to be played, but it is important that O'Neill recognises this opportunity and sews up as many home points on home soil as possible
Every game is a big test now for an Irish side who have in the past been criticised of under performing against the smaller nations, however their reputation of shocking the big sides is a vital trait. The first hurdle is Georgia on Monday night in Dublin as the group finally begins to take shape with world champions Germany looking set to run away with it.
Group D although is still wide open, with each side desperate to secure the second and third tickets to France next summer, but the lifeline that Scotland handed O'Neill and Ireland on Friday night, need not be squandered by the boys in green on Monday as Scotland wait in hope for a big slip up.
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