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Irish learn World Cup play-off opponents

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland have learned who they are playing in their World Cup qualifying.

The Northern Irish will face Switzerland, with the first leg in Belfast.

The Republic travel to Denmark for theri first game before the return leg in Dublin.

The other games see Croatia face Greece and top seeds Italy face Sweden.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill is ready for the task against the Swiss, and said: “We know we’ll have to be at our best but we believe we’re good enough to do that.

“We’ll be prepared for Belfast. We’ve only lost one competitive game there in four years.

“Switzerland had a good campaign, but we have a big opportunity to get to Russia. We know we’ll have to be at our best but we believe we’re good enough to do that.”

Republic chief Michael O’Neill was delighted with their draw.

“Naturally, we’re just pleased to be in the draw. Being unseeded means it was always going to be a difficult tie. We’re delighted to be in it,” he said.

“I know the Denmark manager, we used to play together. It will be an interesting confrontation.

“If you ask most coaches, you want the second game at home. But with the rules like extra time, it gives the away team that chance to score in 120 minutes.

“We have momentum and that’s important. We won last two games to get here. I’m now concerned with the next couple of weeks and making sure my players don’t get injuries at club level.”

Despite the favourable draw, Bookmakers do not make either of them favourites to go through.

BetVictor’s Head of ante post Football Michael Triffitt said: “The Republic will feel that is very much a winnable tie and shorten to 5/4 to qualify from 6/4 pre draw. They are 4/7 to miss out from 1-2.

“Northern Ireland face Switzerland and are 2/1 from 13/8 with the Swiss 4/11 to advance.”

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