O'Neill has predicted from the off that the group would be attritional with teams taking points from each other, and so it has proved. Austria and Wales drew in Vienna on the same night as Ireland edged past the Georgians 1-0 in Dublin.

"I think what I've said here is standing up," O'Neill said. "I think it's a tough group. Teams will take points from each other.

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"Georgia have played two games with no points and they'll be wondering how that's happened, and we've got a tough game on Sunday considering all the problems that we have.

"We had a few problems to face up to (on Thursday) and we've come through it, and I think that that's the thing. We've a bit of spirit in the side, a never-say-die attitude and a will to win, and those things, rather than anything else, carried us through."

[MATCH REPORT: Coleman scores as Ireland claim fortunate victory over Georgia in Group D]

Ireland were indebted to skipper Seamus Coleman's first senior goal on his 40th appearance for his country for their win on a night when they turned in a distinctly ordinary first-half display, and they were far from convincing after the break.

Indeed, had Levan Mchedlidze and Guram Kashia not been denied by the crossbar and the post respectively before the break, their task might have been even more difficult.

There was relief that they emerged with three points, but with Robbie Brady having been sent to hospital for a precautionary scan after being knocked out in a clash of heads and fellow midfielder Hendrick suspended for Sunday's trip to Moldova as a result of his second booking of the campaign, the difficulty is not yet over.

O'Neill said: "It's a tough couple of days for us. We travel to Moldova - they lost (3-0 at home to Serbia on Thursday night). I don't know how the game has gone.

"But any team that finishes above Serbia will go close in the group. I've no idea how the Austria game went other than the fact that the score was 2-2.

"At this minute, you'd probably take two teams dropping two points each. It's a tough campaign for us and we've got a million miles to go."

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