Staunton ready for tough task

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The Independent Football

Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton is under no illusions about his task as he heads into the first of two European Championship qualifying matches, against Slovakia in Bratislava, today. According to Staunton, simply reminding his players or his critics of the Republic's credentials will not be enough. He still has a nation to convince that his team is capable of reaching the finals.

The record books are against him. Ireland play this Group D tie at the Slovan Stadium and the Czech Republic in Prague on Wednesday having not won a meaningful away qualifying match for 20 years.

But with four points the minimum requirement for Ireland, who lie in third place, Staunton knows something has to change. He said: "We have to change the mindset of the whole country. We have never done well against big teams away from home but, in saying that, we have accepted that draws have been great results. They are – but only if you qualify. I want us to have a winning mentality. I think the lads proved in Denmark that there is a belief and that will grow with each game and get-together."

The Republic's win in Denmark last month gave Staunton a welcome selection dilemma today, with Aiden McGeady and Andy Reid pressing claims to start in midfield. McGeady looks sure to start on the right, but Reid may lose his place to Stephen Ireland in the middle. Kevin Kilbane and John O'Shea are likely to start at full-back.

"We're going to do what we've been doing for the last 18 months, going out to win the game," added Staunton. "The Slovaks know they have to win also, because a draw or a win for us puts them out of it."

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