Staunton wary of Cypriots

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Steve Staunton, the Republic of Ireland manager, is adamant that it "will not be an absolute disaster" if his side fail to beat Cyprus in Nicosia today.

In six previous meetings, the Republic have never lost to the Cypriots, outscoring them by a combined aggregate of 21-2, with those two goals conceded in the first encounter between the sides 26 years ago. But following three successive defeats - and with a number of first-choice players injured and the team going through a transitional period according to Staunton - Cyprus have hopes of ending their abysmal record.

Despite Angelos Anastasiadis' side apparently being riddled with internal strife, they believe they can arrest their decline at the GSP Stadium.

Both sides are looking for their first points of the European Championship qualifying campaign after the Republic were beaten 1-0 in Germany and Cyprus were hammered 6-1 by Slovakia in their previous matches.

Even after a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win a year ago, when the Republic were outplayed in the first half and indebted to Shay Given's heroics, the pressure is on to get the win. As far as Staunton is concerned, the Republic can play as badly as they did last October, provided they emerge victorious.

"Last year, the result was fantastic. It was three points, and I'd take that," he said. "If we don't get the three points, it's not an absolute disaster, because there's going to be points won and lost in a few places during this campaign."

Staunton, who will watch the game from the stands as he serves a one-match ban following his dismissal against Germany, is not taking the Cypriots lightly, despite their last result.

"You say Cypriot football is at a low ebb, but I saw the video of their game with Slovakia, and it was not a 6-1 game," he said. "The Cypriots were unlucky. They had the best chance at 1-0 down and, in scoring in the 91st minute when they were 6-0 down, that tells me they keep going throughout. They have some very talented players. The front two [Ioannis Okkas and Michael Constantinou] play for Olympiakos in the Champions' League, while they've some talented midfield players. Wales were beaten here 1-0 last November."

Staunton is without Given, the right-back Stephen Carr and the midfielders Steven Reid and Graham Kavanagh, as well as the striker Kevin Doyle.

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