Giovanni Trapattoni insists Republic of Ireland are still in hunt for 2014 World Cup qualification

Austria scored a late equaliser last night to dent their chances

Giovanni Trapattoni insists the Republic of Ireland remain firmly in the hunt for World Cup qualification despite suffering a heartbreaking setback against Austria.

The Republic came within seconds of climbing into second place in Group C and giving themselves a genuine chance of claiming a play-off spot when Austria midfielder David Alaba snatched a draw with an injury-time equaliser at the Aviva Stadium.

However, Trapattoni is refusing to give up on his hopes of guiding Ireland to the finals in Brazil next summer after the 2-2 draw.

He said: "There is a long way to go and we have the same possibility we had. This team can grow more in confidence and personality.

"Obviously, I am not satisfied with this draw, but I have got to accept that we were missing a bit of experience.

"But we hit the post through Shane Long and the [last] goal was a deflection, so I can say we have been a little bit unlucky - a little bit, but not much."

Alaba's last-gasp strike was all the more dispiriting for Trapattoni and his players after they had fought their way back from a losing position to take the lead and preserve it until the game's final throes.

The visitors took an 11th-minute lead when Zlatko Junuzovic caught defender Ciaran Clark in possession and fed Martin Harnik, whose deft finish gave David Forde no chance.

But Ireland were handed a lifeline when Emanuel Pogatetz brought down Long and Jon Walters converted from the penalty spot with 25 minutes gone.

Walters headed the Republic into the lead in first-half injury time and they were to maintain their advantage until the dying seconds, when Alaba's long-range effort clipped substitute Sean St Ledger and flew past Forde to deny Trapattoni's men victory.

As a result, it is Austria who will head into the next round of matches in June sitting in second behind leaders Germany, although only on goal difference from Sweden, who have a game in hand, and the Republic.

Trapattoni had targeted four points from this month's double-header and Friday night's draw in Stockholm had set them up perfectly.

However, the late, late blow added fuel to the fires of the 74-year-old's detractors, and amid speculation that former Reading boss Brian McDermott has been lined up as a potential replacement, rumours of his impending demise are unlikely to go away.

But the veteran Italian, who survived in the aftermath of October's 6-1 home defeat by the Germans, was remaining defiant once again.

Asked if he would still be in the job when the Faroe Islands arrive in Dublin in June, he said: "Why not? We are the same in the table. It has not changed."

Opposite number Marcel Koller left the Aviva Stadium the happier, but he we refused to concede that the draw had handed the advantage to his side's next opponents, Sweden.

He said: "We don't know that yet. We haven't played against Sweden yet, so it will all depend on the game in Vienna in June."

PA

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