Marco Tardelli is backing Republic of Ireland to push France all the way as they attempt to resurrect their FIFA World Cup™ dreams in Paris.

The Irish squad know their hopes of making it to South Africa next summer will be decided at the Stade de France on Wednesday evening. They trail 1-0 to Nicolas Anelka's lone strike at Croke Park on Saturday and know only a rare victory against a major side on foreign soil will be good enough.

However, if that is a daunting task, there is little prospect of manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his players letting France stroll into the finals. Assistant manager Tardelli believes the confidence the Republic gained by running Raymond Domenech's gifted players close in Dublin will serve them well as they approach an even bigger test of their resolve.

He said: "After the French scored we tried to draw the match. We had three or four big chances and maybe we will have chances again. It is possible to play well in France. The players are ready. In training they have been very strong, also psychologically."

Saturday's defeat was met with understandable disappointment in the dressing room as well as the stands at Croke Park. However, Trapattoni's response was to tell his players that their task had not changed markedly, although they will now have to score twice or win 1-0 and go through on penalties.

We have no injuries and we have a very high morale. There are no problems.

Marco Tardelli

That message has been drummed home over the last 48 hours and Tardelli added: "Nothing has changed. We need to win in France. We needed to win here but sometimes these things happen. We have no injuries and we have a very high morale. There are no problems. We are ready for the next match."

Trapattoni and his staff finalised their preparations in Malahide this morning, with driving rain and icy winds making life difficult. But with no new fitness problems despite a gruelling 90 minutes on a heavy pitch on Saturday, the mood remains upbeat.

The sense of deflation which inevitably followed the first leg defeat has quickly dissipated and given way to a renewed determination. That process has been helped in part by the war of words which erupted on the final whistle.

Midfielder Keith Andrews was furious at comments made by Real Madrid counterpart Lassana Diarra, which reportedly suggested, in the most colourful of language, that he need not make any travel plans for South Africa. Several players from both sides were drawn into the spat and Trapattoni later claimed the Frenchman had "insulted the Irish people". Diarra has since denied that, saying: "I do not know what happened. The Irish had lost 1-0. They were not happy. Then, inevitably, it was our fault."

And Tardelli diplomatically played down the row today. He said: "It's not nice but it is finished. It's not a problem for the Irish people, it is not a problem for the French people. It is a match, no problem."

However, it remains to be seen whether it really is finished for Andrews and his team-mates, and Diarra would do well to prepare for seeing rather a lot of the Blackburn man as a tense game gets under way.