Qualification for UEFA EURO 2004™ is no longer in the Republic of Ireland's hands after Brian Kerr's side could only draw 1-1 at home to Group 10 rivals Russia.
Out of their hands
The Irish knew that wins in their final two qualifiers, at home to Russia and away to Switzerland, would win the group for them. However, they now need to beat the Swiss and depend on the results of other games, notably Wednesday's match in Moscow between Russia and Switzerland, although a win in Basel next month would guarantee Ireland a play-off spot.
Poor second half
Ireland hoped for great things when they took the lead on 35 minutes through Damien Duff, but the Russians were level within seven minutes. Sergei Ignashevich scored and a poor second-half display by the home side meant they were unable to reclaim the lead. Russia therefore walked off the pitch the happier side after coach Georgi Yartsev's first match in charge.
Yartsev's men know that they will go level on points with Ireland if they can beat the Swiss. Russia's preparations for the game were not ideal - they only arrived in Dublin on Friday afternoon, 24 hours before kick-off, and they looked sluggish in the early stages.
Ireland had the better of the opening exchanges, with chances for Damien Duff, Colin Healy and Lee Carsley in the first half-hour. In the 35th minute Duff scored his fifth international goal, picking up the ball midway through his own half, chasing towards the Russian goal and firing a shot past keeper Sergei Ovchinnikov.
Ignashevich on hand
The Irish relaxed, however, and allowed the visitors an equaliser on 42 minutes. Shay Given failed to deal with a corner by Alexander Mostovoi and defender Ignashevich was on hand to hit the equaliser.
The second half was a dull affair with few chances. Clinton Morrison went close for Ireland on 47 minutes, while in the 72nd minute Russian captain Viktor Onopko almost stole a goal. Then, with ten minutes left, striker Dmitri Bulykin did well to get past his marker and send in a cross, but none of his team-mates was there to meet it.
Ireland play Turkey in a friendly on Tuesday and manager Kerr will use the game to experiment, especially as captain Kenny Cunningham will miss the Swiss game in October after he was booked in the second half.