Kevin Kilbane can sense the same hunger for a FIFA World Cup™ adventure within the Republic of Ireland squad as he did eight years ago.

The 32-year-old full-back is one of several survivors from a memorable Korea/Japan 2002 campaign in the current Ireland set-up, and he knows exactly what it means to play on the biggest stage of all. But as he attempts to book another trip to the showcase event, he believes it is the youngsters among Giovanni Trapattoni's current crop of hopefuls who are fuelling the drive, just as he and a previous generation did under Mick McCarthy.

Kilbane said: "During the Japan and Korea campaign, it was definitely a little bit of hunger and desire from the younger players that we had, myself included, at that time, really wanting to go to a World Cup and try to achieve something. I am certainly feeling that from the younger lads who have come into the fold now.

I would love to go back and experience another World Cup. I am very, very honoured and very proud that I have played in one,

Republic of Ireland defender Kevin Kilbane.

"I would love to go back and experience another World Cup. I am very, very honoured and very proud that I have played in one. It's certainly in my thoughts that, if we can go back, I have got to try to really go there and give a good account of myself."

Kilbane's hopes could rest largely on what happens at Croke Park over the next week. Current world champions Italy need only a point in Dublin on Saturday evening to ensure they claim top spot in Group 8 and automatic qualification for South Africa 2010.

However, if Ireland can beat Marcello Lippi's side and then add three more points against Montenegro next Wednesday, the Italians would have to defeat Cyprus in their final game to edge out the Republic. The prospect of Italy not picking up the point they need from their last two games is admittedly remote, and Ireland's destiny is more likely to rest in the hands of a play-off lottery.

However, having claimed a 1-1 draw in Bari in April after Italy had striker Giampaolo Pazzini sent off, Trapattoni's men are determined not to throw in the towel. Kilbane said: "The only thing we have to be focused on is that we beat Italy and try to secure the play-off spot first and foremost.

"Then we have just got to hope Cyprus can do us a favour on the Wednesday. But, if we beat Italy, we will be doing okay. When we came in after the game over there, we were a little bit disappointed that we didn't win the game, and that we conceded so soon after them going down to 10 men.

Italy know a point is good enough for them to qualify, and they are the masters of getting results when they need them,

Republic of Ireland defender Kevin Kilbane.

"But, on the night, we did play well and we know we are capable of causing them problems, so certainly this week in Dublin we feel we can win the game, definitely. Italy know a point is good enough for them to qualify, and they are the masters of getting results when they need them, so we know we have to be on our guard throughout the whole 90 minutes. We can't concede and if we stay in the game - right to the last minute if needs be - we know we are capable of scoring."

Both Kilbane and keeper Shay Given will win their 99th senior international caps if they are selected at the weekend, and would then complete a century against Montenegro. That is a feat the full-back admitted was never in his thoughts when he made his debut against Iceland back in 1997.

He said: "I remember just feeling proud on the night that I managed to get up and running. I didn't ever think I would get to the total I am on now. I'll probably give the old cliche that I am trying to concentrate on the Italy game but it is in my mind. Since I got into the 90s, everybody keeps bringing it up.

"I have to concentrate on the Italy game because that has got to be at the forefront of my mind, but yes, I am fully aware that at the end of the Montenegro game next week I could be on 100. It's very, very pleasing."