Shay Given believes Republic of Ireland have already upset the odds to reach the FIFA World Cup™ play-offs as they prepare to do it once again.
The 33-year-old will captain his country against Montenegro at Croke Park tomorrow as he and full-back Kevin Kilbane win their 100th senior caps in the final game of the Republic's Group Eight campaign. They will do so determined to extend their unbeaten record in the qualifying campaign to 10 matches, but with one eye already on next month's play-offs, which could pitch them into battle with one of Europe's biggest names.
However, after drawing home and away with world champions Italy and dismissing Bulgaria from the race for qualification, Given is confident they have already achieved something notable, and are capable of going further. He said: "The biggest thing in getting a winning mentality is getting results. It's a results business and if you speak to any manager in the Premier League, it's all about results for them.
"We came into this in third place in the seedings and it was going to be a tough ask to get into the play-off position. We would love to have topped the group, don't get me wrong, but we haven't done that. We have got into second place and I would honestly say most players and fans alike would have probably taken that with the world champions being in the group as well.
Making 100 caps, myself and Kevin Kilbane on the same night, we will
both be very proud wearing the Irish jersey once more. To wear it 100
times is very, very special.
"That comes from the manager. We finished the last campaign in fourth place, so to finish in second, we are improving and he has got to take the credit. He has given us the belief and the confidence to go out to play Italy and teams like that and the results."
Given is a veteran of two play-off showdowns, one in which Ireland lost to Belgium and the other eight years ago when they beat Iran to make it to the 2002 finals. He admits that, whatever next Monday's draw hands he and his team-mates, the trip to Tehran has prepared him for anything which could be thrown at them.
The Manchester City keeper said: "It will be a stroll in the park after that, to be honest. That was pretty hostile out in Iran. But there are a lot of experienced players in the team who have been there before as well, and that will help the younger players to come through the two legs, hopefully.
"I don't think anyone will relish playing us. We have got a settled team and we are unbeaten in the group so far. We have shown we can go to Italy and go to Bulgaria and get results. Whoever is drawn against Ireland, we will cause them some problems.
"We know it's going to be tough with the seeding situation, but we have got some very good players as well and a good squad and a good mentality now going into next month."
Given will be a proud man as he leads the team out despite being on a yellow card - Keith Andrews and Aiden McGeady are unlikely to be risked for that reason - on a big night for him and his family.
He said: "Making 100 caps, myself and Kevin Kilbane on the same night, we will both be very proud wearing the Irish jersey once more. To wear it 100 times is very, very special."