Finnan expects no drop-outs for trip to Tehran

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The Independent Online

The Fulham defender Steve Finnan said yesterday that he saw no problem in travelling to Iran for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off later this month and was sure his fellow players felt the same.

The Republic play in Tehran on 15 November for the second leg of a tie they must win to secure their place in the finals in Japan and South Korea next year. The first leg takes place in Dublin on 10 November.

Finnan said he could not imagine the Republic of Ireland squad following the example of Chelsea, who sent a weakened team to Israel for a Uefa Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv two weeks ago. Six Chelsea players missed the game, which ended in a 2-0 defeat for the English side, with five of them citing security concerns following the September attacks on the United States and the subsequent US-led strikes on Afghanistan, as their reason for staying at home.

"Either we all go or none of us go," Finnan said. "Chelsea gave the players the chance not to go. I can understand that, obviously players have families to think of, but I am sure that won't happen with Ireland.

"Mick McCarthy [the Irish manager] has been out there and said everything is fine so I don't see a problem at all. All the players trust him and as the situation stands I will be happy to go and I am sure it is the same for the other players."

McCarthy watched both legs of Iran's Asian play-off against the United Arab Emirates, and has said he is not worried about playing in Tehran.

"I was there [Iran] for the first leg against the UAE last week and we were treated with great respect and friendliness and given a very warm welcome," he told the Irish state broadcaster RTE.

"I wouldn't ask the players to do anything I wouldn't do and there is not a problem. The only problem we have got is beating Iran – they are pretty good."

The Irish captain Roy Keane is nursing a knee injury that will probably keep him out of Manchester United's Premiership fixture with Liverpool on Sunday. But, after speaking to the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, McCarthy expects the influential midfielder to be fit for the Lansdowne Road game six days later.

"It will be magnificent to have him back and involved – his importance in the ties that decide our World Cup fate should not be under-estimated," McCarthy said.

Iran qualified for the play-off by beating the UAE 3-0 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to complete a 4-0 aggregate victory.

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