Hunt upbeat over Irish hopes

Midfielder looking forward to play-offs

Hunt: Looking forward to play-offs

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Stephen Hunt is confident the Republic of Ireland are capable of beating one of Europe's big guns to secure a place in the World Cup.

Ireland finished runners-up to Italy in their qualifying group to claim a play-off spot and will find out their opponents on Monday.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side will be in the bottom half of seeds for the draw and will play France, Portugal, Greece or Russia.

Hunt is not concerned by the quality of opposition lying in wait for Ireland and believes lessons can be learned from last weekend's 2-2 draw with holders Italy.


Asked if Ireland can beat a side of the stature of France or Portugal, the 28-year-old said: "Of course we can. I know we haven't beaten one in a while, but we definitely can.

"We should have beaten Italy on Saturday and we gave away a goal in the last minute, but we might learn from that.

"If we do score with three or four minutes to go, then we will definitely be sharper and more aware of what we have to do to win the game.

"We are unbeaten and after the last campaign, we would have snatched your hand off for that.

"We are confident. Whoever we get, it's going to be difficult. But hopefully we can come out going to the World Cup. That will be the difference between success and failure."

Assistant boss Marco Tardelli ventured the opinion earlier in the week that surprise 2004 European champions Greece might be the team to get, but Hunt admits all the possible options will be tough.

He said: "They are all quality teams, but Russia, you don't know what you are getting.

"Do they play on a plastic surface as well? I would rather avoid that, to be honest with you, because they are used to the surface and we are not.

"What kind of boots do you wear? It's a difficult one.

"Whoever we get will be difficult, but listen, we are looking forward to the play-offs."