Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill refused to get carried away in the wake of his side’s impressive 1-1 draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica.
Despite being on the back foot for long periods at the Stadion Bilino Polje, the visitors managed to take the lead eight minutes from time courtesy of a breakaway goal from Robbie Brady.
Home skipper Edin Dzeko levelled things up within three minutes, however, and O’Neill insists his charges will have to be at their best in order to secure qualification in Monday’s return leg in Dublin.
“The tie is still alive and the goal we scored helped greatly, but conceding the goal at the end has just put a bit of a dampener on things,” he told RTE.
“The pitch was very lively tonight and we tried to cope with it as best we could and cope with the opposition at the same time. And we are still fighting. We’ve still got a battle to come on Monday night.”
O’Neill went on to admit that he failed to get a decent view of Brady’s opening goal due to the thick fog that blanketed the stadium during the half-time interval and hampered visibility throughout the second half.
“I didn’t see a great deal of the goal,” he said. “I was concerned at one stage in the second half that the game might be called off because of the fog.
“But the assistant referee on our side said that he could see things pretty clearly which was news to me at the time!
“Robbie has done brilliantly to score the goal.”
With key men Shane Long, John O’Shea and Jonathan Walters all in contention to return for the second leg, Ireland look well placed to book their place in France, not that O’Neill is anticipating an easy night at the Aviva Stadium.
“The most important thing is that we are still in the tie,” he said.
“There’s another battle to come and I think the players are ready for it.”