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04th Sep 2016

Serbia skipper Branislav Ivanovic reveals the Republic of Ireland duo he’s most concerned about

Threats identified

Darragh Murphy

What? But the Euros are only just over.

Yes, the World Cup qualifiers are already upon us.

The last week has been dominated by talk of Robbie Keane’s international retirement but, as nice as it was for the Irish legend to bow out with a goal against Oman, it’s time for serious business for the Republic of Ireland.

They get their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup underway on Monday night with a tricky away tie against Serbia, one of the sides that will be in the running to progress in spite of the fact that they’ve failed to qualify for the last three major tournaments.

But Ireland too are expected to be in the discussion after making it to the last 16 of Euro 2016, beating Italy in the group stages and opening the scoring against tournament favourites France in the knockout phase.

Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic is well aware of the threats that Ireland pose and he has identified two in particular that he is familiar with from the Premier League.

Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League

“Ireland are a very difficult opponent who need to be respected, who demand respect,” the Chelsea defender said at a press conference.

“What impresses me is their level of continuity, they have a mix of young and experienced players, maybe because I have played in the Premier League for so long I understand they are aggressive and make up for any faults they have with their effort.

“[Shane] Long and [Jonathan] Walters are tough to defend against, they don’t leave a second for defenders to have a lapse in concentration and they make things difficult from start to finish.”

Kick-off in Belgrade is set for 19:45 (Irish time) on Monday night.

Huge All-Ireland final GAA Hour features an interview with Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. Subscribe here on iTunes.

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