Ireland confident heading into play-off

Sean St Ledger believes the seeded teams will be anxious to avoid the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup qualification play-offs.

The Republic will meet either France, Portugal, Russia or Greece over two legs on November 14 and 18 when the draw is made in Zurich at lunchtime today.

"I am sure the whole country and everyone involved is looking forward to it," said the Middlesbrough defender, who is on loan from Preston.

"Obviously, it's going to be a big team that we'll face, but I'm sure the teams who are seeded are going to be looking at the other teams and hoping to avoid us."

Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia are the three other teams in pot two for the draw at FIFA's headquarters.

So far coach Giovanni Trapattoni and his players have been guarded in expressing who they wish to face for the prize of a place at next year's finals in South Africa.

Greece have faded since winning Euro 2004 and would be the obvious choice, but France and Portugal endured troubled qualifying campaigns that proved they are vulnerable.

Russia are the only side to have been singled out by Trapattoni - he dislikes their artificial pitch at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium - though with Guus Hiddink at the helm the Italian knows he will also lock horns with a canny operator.

Liam Lawrence believes that whoever the Republic draw, they face a formidable challenge to reach the World Cup.

"There are some big teams in there now, so we have just got to take the draw as it comes," said the Stoke winger.

"They are all big sides, so we are not hoping for one team over any other because they are all really good.

"We have just got to take it as it comes and hopefully play well."

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