Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni has kept faith with his usual suspects as he attempts to close in on a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

The Italian this evening named the same 24-man squad for next month's qualifier in Cyprus and the friendly against South Africa which follows it as he did for the 3-0 defeat by Australia earlier this month. That means places once again for Preston duo Sean St Ledger and Eddie Nolan, as well as new Fulham winger Damien Duff.

Trapattoni said: "We have put ourselves in a good position in the qualification group going into this game. The match against Cyprus is very important as we continue to try to book our place in South Africa next summer."

Ireland face Cyprus in Nicosia on Saturday 5 September knowing a positive result would edge them closer to their goal of qualification. Trapattoni's men currently lie second in Group Eight and remain unbeaten during the campaign.

We have put ourselves in a good position in the qualification group
going into this game. The match against Cyprus is very important.

Giovanni Trapattoni

A win in Nicosia would see the Irish end the Cypriots' own hopes of reaching the play-offs - the hosts are currently eight points worse off with a game in hand - while a draw would leave them with a mountain to climb. The Republic currently trail world champions Italy by a point after the 1-1 draw in Bulgaria in June, although they have played one more game than Marcelo Lippi's side.

They will end their campaign with home games against the Italians and Montenegro in October, two sides Cyprus still have to play on the road. Third-placed Bulgaria, currently five points adrift of Ireland, having also played a game fewer, still have to travel to both Italy and Cyprus.

Trapattoni's side won the reverse fixture at Croke Park in October when Robbie Keane's fifth-minute strike was enough to edge a tight contest. However, Cyprus have proved something of a thorn in Ireland's side over the years, no more so than in October 2006 when they returned from Nicosia with their European Championship qualification hopes in shreds after a 5-2 defeat.

The South Africa game will pitch them into direct competition with the hosts of next summer's tournament, and although there will be no points at stake, Trapattoni is viewing it as a key part of his preparations for the task which lies ahead. He said: "The match against South Africa in Thomond Park will provide useful preparation for our final two World Cup qualifying games against Italy and Montenegro in Croke Park in October."