John O’Shea’s play-off pledge

John O'Shea
John O'Shea
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JOHN O’Shea goes into tonight’s game between the Republic of Ireland and Armenia, determined it will be mission accomplished by the final whistle.

The towering defender told the Echo last week that he wanted nothing less than victories over Andorra and Armenia in the back-to-back Euro 2012 qualifying games played either side of the weekend to guarantee his country’s progress into the play-offs.

And having successfully completed half that mission with a comfortable 2-0 win over Andorra on Friday, O’Shea wants his country to finish the job in Dublin this evening when they host the only country that could oust them from a play-off place.

Armenia are a point behind the Republic in Group B and must win this evening if they are to reach the play-offs ahead of their opponents.

But O’Shea says the Republic know exactly what is needed and expected from them.

“We went into these two games with our eyes on nothing less than winning both,” he said. “We know we’re capable of doing that and we just have to go out there and do it,” he said.

“There’s hurdles to be overcome but if you can get through to the play-offs then it becomes very simple – win a game and you’re through to the finals.”

Sweden’s win over Finland last week means they are guaranteed a play-off place but they will qualify automatically for the finals as best runners-up if they beat group winners Holland this evening – a game in which Sunderland’s Seb Larsson is expected to feature in from the start.

Ironically, Larsson’s Sweden could miss out on the best runners-up spot to Nicklas Bendtner’s Denmark.

The Danes face Portugal with the two nations level on points and knowing the winner will qualify automatically from Group H.

A draw would see Denmark finish second on goal difference but if Sweden don’t overcome Holland, Bendtner’s side has a chance of clinching that best runners-up spot.

Meanwhile, Black Cats’ defender Phil Bardsley heads out to already-qualified Spain with the Scots knowing they must match – or better – the Czech Republic’s result against Lithuania to finish second in Group I.

Wales cannot qualify for the finals but Sunderland midfielder David Vaughan could play in their final Group G game against Bulgaria.