Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni will prepare his players for two "cup finals" as they attempt to dump France out of the FIFA World Cup™.
Ireland were today handed arguably the toughest possible draw in next month's play-offs when they were paired with the 1998 winners and 2006 runners-up. Trapattoni's men will host the French at Croke Park on Saturday 14 November before trying to complete the job at the Stade de France in Paris four days later.
The Italian told the FAI website: "These games are like cup finals. We have come through the qualification group and are one of only five teams in Europe with an unbeaten record. That will give us self-belief going into these games.
"We have done well so far, but over the 180 minutes, we must give something additional, and we will have to be even more concentrated and focused than we have been until now.
We have done well so far, but over the 180 minutes, we must give
something additional, and we will have to be even more concentrated and
focused than we have been until now.
"We have come out of a group containing the current world champions, Italy, and have got positive results against them in both games. Now we face the 2006 World Cup finalists and our results to date will give us the conviction and the belief that we can get a result."
The Republic finished second in Group 8 behind Italy, having drawn with the reigning champions in Bari and in Dublin, when only substitute Alberto Gilardino's late equaliser denied them a famous victory. However, they emerged from the group unbeaten with four victories and six draws.
France were denied automatic qualification from Group 7 by Serbia, who amassed 22 points to their 21. They lost only once - 3-1 in Austria in their opening qualifier in September last year, a result for which they gained revenge, winning by the same score in their final game in Paris last Wednesday evening.
Raymond Domenech's side was one of four seeded teams the Irish could have drawn with Portugal, Greece and Russia landing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Slovenia respectively.