France won't fear us, admits Hunt


Soccer:Stephen Hunt admits France's superstars will not be afraid of the Republic of Ireland if they are pitched into a World Cup play-off battle.

However, he is confident Giovanni Trapattoni's men will give any team a game as they attempt to book their passage to next summer's finals in South Africa.

The Republic will be in the hat for Monday's draw after clinching second spot in Group Eight behind reigning champions Italy following their clash at Croke Park on Saturday night.

Alberto Gilardino's late equaliser secured a 2-2 draw for Marcello Lippi's men and denied the Republic a first victory over one of European football's traditional powers since they beat the Netherlands in 2001.

Ireland may have to beat similarly tough opponents to make the 2010 finals with France, Portugal, Russia and Greece likely to be the four seeded teams against whom they could be drawn.

Asked if any of them would relish a trip to Dublin, Hull midfielder Hunt said: "France have got superb players who have dealt with pressure all their lives. Thierry Henry is playing at Barcelona, William Gallas is playing at Arsenal.

"They are all top players and they will be confident of beating us. The seedings don't lie.

"We won't get carried away. We have got an awful lot of hard work to come and hopefully we can do it.

"Whoever we play against they are going to be difficult games.

"We have got to be professional over the two legs and make sure we get to the World Cup no matter how we get there."

Assistant manager Marco Tardelli admits he would rather not draw France and is keeping his fingers crossed that 2004 European champions Greece are lying in wait for the Republic.

He said: "Maybe Greece, yes, maybe. Not France, but Greece is possible because Greece is a team like us.

"I think France is the worst draw because they have many good players like Ribery, Benzema, Henry and Trezeguet."

In the meantime, the Irish will attempt to end the group stage unbeaten by seeing off Montenegro, who will arrive in Dublin without star strikers Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic.

Whatever happens, it will be a big night for Shay Given and Kevin Kilbane, who will each complete a century of senior international caps if selected.

Hunt said: "Kevin Kilbane is probably winning his 100th cap in a row or something ridiculous like that. He has been outstanding on the pitch.

"He has been one of our most consistent players, that's why he has got some many games in a row.

"Off the pitch, he is even better in the changing room.

"Shay just makes save after save and he has done his country proud. He has turned up for most games, the same as Kevin."