O'Neill sets Ireland target of Poland or Germany victory

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Credit: PA

Martin O'Neill has set the Republic of Ireland the task of beating either world champions Germany or Poland to secure a Euro 2016 play-off place.

Ireland cemented themselves in third place in Group D with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium as rivals Scotland lost 3-2 at home to the Germans - their second defeat in four days.

That leaves the Republic four points clear of Gordon Strachan's men with two games to play, although next month's fixtures could hardly be tougher.

O'Neill said: "I said here in this press conference in June that there would be twists and turns because winning football matches is not easy, winning away from home is not easy.

"But we have a long way to go. We have two very, very difficult matches to play, against the world champions next. We might as well have a go.

"We need to find a win in two matches. We'll have to play better for the whole game. Germany, with respect, are not only the best team in the group, they are world champions, and I'd say at this minute, possibly even the best side in Europe, so we will have to naturally do better for 90 minutes in the game."

Ireland turned in a poor first-half display in a game they simply had to win, but improved dramatically after the break and got their reward when Jonathan Walters turned home Jeff Hendrick's 69th-minute cross after the midfielder produced an exhilarating run.

O'Neill said: "It's come right out of the blue. It was a great, great run and to keep a little bit of composure as well with the final ball coming in that somebody is going to come in on top of that as Jonathan Walters did, it was great play by Jeff.

"A very obvious point is I am delighted we have won the game. We found a way to win the second half. We were very tentative in the first half - I'm not sure why we should be having won on Friday, maybe expectation, whatever it is.

"I thought we lacked energy in the first half and consequently created very little, and it's obviously a bit of a worry.

"But the players came very, very strongly in the second half and we deserved to get the goal and we deserved to win the game."

Georgia coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze's 47th birthday ultimately ended in disappointment, but he was able to take positives from an encouraging few days which saw his side beat Scotland in Tbilisi and make life difficult for Ireland.

He said: "We have had two very difficult games and we also had a difficult journey to come here - but we have shown we are on a level to play equally with teams like Ireland and Scotland, and hopefully we will build on that in the future.

"We have already started preparations for the new qualifying campaign with these games.

"I wish Ireland all the success. We have had a very interesting, very tense game tonight and I am proud of my players. They have played two very important and intense games and they have fulfilled their duties with high skill."