Martin O'Neill: Republic boss insists World Cup hopes still alive despite defeat
Martin O'Neill's insisted his Republic of Ireland team's World Cup hopes remained alive despite Tuesday's 1-0 home defeat by Group D leaders Serbia.
The Republic now trail the Serbs by five points as O'Neill's side drop to third following Wales' win in Moldova.
With next month's games against Moldova and Wales remaining, securing a play-off appears the Republic's last remaining hope but O'Neill was defiant.
"We have two games left and we can still make it," said the Republic boss.
"We were terrific in the first half, we just couldn't get that elusive goal. We threw caution to the wind at the end and could have got the result."
Aleksander Kolarov's fierce 55th-minute strike earned the win which puts the Serbs in charge of Group D as they face their concluding qualifiers next month away to Austria and at home to Georgia.
Republic hopes of topping group fade
A victory in either game will guarantee Serbia top spot and automatic qualification and leave Wales and the Republic battling for a possible play-off spot.
The Republic's penultimate qualifier on 6 October sees them hosting Moldova on 6 October before they face Wales in Cardiff three days later.
However, O'Neill is not giving up and spoke of his pride after his team produced a much-improved display from Saturday's dismal 1-1 draw in Georgia.
"I'm very disappointed, naturally, but very proud of the team which is very important," added O'Neill, after the first competitive home defeat of his Republic reign.
Speaking shortly after the final whistle, O'Neill said that he hadn't got a good view of his team's claim for a penalty in the 76th minute after substitute Daryl Murphy appeared to be hauled back by Jagos Vukovic.
"What can you say? What's the point? The game's over. It's not going to change the result," said a frustrated O'Neill.
Meyler insists qualification hopes 'not dead'
David Meyler, named man of the match as he made an impressive return to the Republic's starting line-up, also maintained that the team's qualification hopes are "not dead" despite Tuesday's disappointment.
"We are hugely disappointed but we have been in this situation before. Our aim is to win those last two games and I believe we will," said the Hull City player, who along with Wes Hoolahan, was drafted into the Republic's midfield as Harry Arter and Glenn Whelan made way.
"We're still in a good position, we've got Moldova at home and Wales away.
"We can't have too many regrets. We poured our heart and soul into the performance and gave it everything.
"They probably had two good chances, but overall I think we deserved something from the game, probably three points, but we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net."