It’s been a campaign to forget in every sense of the word; this is destined to be Ireland’s worst since their bid to qualify for the 1986 finals in Mexico yielded just six pointsNonetheless, on the eve of their final Group C game against Kazakhstan, interim Irish manager Noel King believes the quest for a brighter future has already begun and is convinced he will hand over a squad to his successor capable of returning to the elite of international football.
The Boys in Green are looking to end a five-game winless streak on Tuesday evening, with the 3-0 defeat to Germany on Friday confirming their slim chances of qualifying for Brazil 2014 are officially over.
Consequently, the Republic are all but assured to finish a disappointing fourth in Group C but victory over the Kazakhs at the Aviva Stadium would not only end the campaign with three rare qualification points but also boost morale in a side unquestionably devoid of confidence.
However, King is confident this set of players are in a good place and have the ability to qualify for Euro 2016. "It would be lovely to get a win [on Tuesday]," he stated at the pre-game press conference on Monday evening.
"These players are up, they know that they have acquitted themselves well at the top and they know that they just have to repeat that. They are up for it, I know by their eyes and antics - they want to win this game."
Looking further ahead, King is convinced that whoever takes over the reins on a permanent basis will inherit a talented bunch of players who are on the right road to a bright future.
“We were terrific at defending and counter-attacking in Cologne, working together and compact as a unit," King said. "There are also players in the under-21s and lower who are going to be knocking on the door soon. They are on the way, champing at the bit,” he explained.
King's two-match reign as manager will come to an end on Tuesday and the former midfielder sees comparisons between the two countries, who both have no chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
He added: “Kazakhstan and Ireland are not that dissimilar so we have to make sure that when we play these teams, we have a plan that can get us success.”
Captain Robbie Keane is set to win his 130th cap after coming through training at the Aviva Stadium unscathed. Ireland’s record goalscorer missed the defeat to Germany with an ankle injury but he returned to training yesterday and hopes he will be ready to lead the attack.
“I felt ok so hopefully there’s no reaction from yesterday’s training,” Keane said. “Hopefully I should be fit and ready for selection.”
King is expected to make several changes for the final Group C encounter but kept his cards close his chest once again.
"There are a lot of skilful players itching to get in the team, they were disappointed on Friday, I'd love to play them all but you can't do that.
"Their attitude has been exceptional, they're still biting at the teeth and they want to play so we will see how that unfolds."
Both Richard Dunne and John O’Shea return from suspension to boost the manager’s resources but King admitted neither are assured of a starting berth.
“It’s a very difficult thing because the boys have given so much, haven’t they?” he said.
“They have been flat out in pursuit of maybe a 2-1 or a 2-2 and it just didn’t happen for them. That was a great effort that they’ve given so to just dismiss that effort and make changes is huge. It’s a huge challenge for me but if that’s what’s required, I’ll do it.”
Kazakhstan arrive in the Irish capital knowing they will finish fifth and cannot be caught by basement nation Faroe Islands. They currently trail Ireland by six points, with their solitary victory of the campaign coming in a 2-1 success over the Faroes in September.
The action gets under-way at 19:45 BST at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.