Rewind five months and any thoughts of Brazil were a millions miles away as the Republic of Ireland suffered their heaviest ever home defeat in a competitive game at the hands of Germany. However, on the eve of their crucial Group C qualifier with Austria in Dublin, manager Giovanni Trapattoni insists his side are increasingly confident of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup.
Heading into the first competitive match at the Aviva Stadium since the 6-1 humiliation in October, Austria are ahead of the Boys in Green on goal difference, with both teams on seven points after four matches. While, Germany lead the table on 13 points from five matches with Sweden occupying second spot with eight points from four games.
Ireland earned a valuable point in Stockholm on Friday to add to victories over Kazakhstan and Faroe Islands and according to Trapattoni, his players are growing in confidence by the game.
“We have shown we are a good team, compact with good personality. The players played with conviction and good attitude [in Sweden] and are growing in belief that we can qualify.
We must try win this game, but we must also play with intelligence because there are many games to come before qualification is finished.” The 74-year-old said.
“We have to be in contention until the very last game. It will be important to stay up with Sweden because Germany are too far ahead. But I have a lot of trust in this group and I am convinced we can improve even more.” He added.
Trapattoni has made two changes for the clash with Derby County's Conor Sammon drafted in to replace the injured Robbie Keane while Glenn Whelan, who missed the scoreless draw with Sweden through injury, returns in place of Paul Green.
There is a doubt over left Marc Wilson, who has a hamstring problem, and Fulham's Stephen Kelly will replace him if he failed a pre-match fitness test tomorrow.
The selection of 26-year-old Sammon, who will win just his third cap, is somewhat of a controversial one with Simon Cox and the re-called Kevin Doyle having to settle for a place on the substitute’s bench. But the Irish manager believes the former UCD’s frontman style of play will cause their opponents trouble.
“Physically he is strong enough, he's quick and he is good in the air and he showed us good quality in the last game. He is not only tall, he is fast as well.
Long is fast as well and we need two fast players. It's important to defend the ball and give this support to allow the team to come up [the pitch].” Trapattoni explained.
"We don't know how Austria will play - will they come and press us or will they stay and wait for us?
Marc Wilson has been picked pending a late fitness test on a groin injury with Stephen Kelly on standby if the Stoke defender fails to recover in time while Jonathan Walters retains his place on the right side with Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan once again named on the bench.
Republic of Ireland XI v Austria: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Wilson, McClean, Whelan, McCarthy, Walters, Long, Sammon.