Republic of Ireland legend Shay Given says Martin O’Neill’s boys in green will be brimming with confidence going into this week’s 2018 World Cup play-off with Denmark.
Ireland face Denmark on Saturday at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen with the return leg at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.
Given, who played 134 times for Ireland, has experienced four play-offs.
Given lost to Belgium in a 1998 World Cup qualifier and to France in a 2010 World Cup qualifier, when Ireland were infamously denied by the hand of Thierry Henry.
The Liffordman was on the winning side against Iran to reach the 2002 World Cup and got past Estonia to qualify for the 2012 European Championships.
“Play-offs are nervy and you’re so close,” Given said.
“I can imagine what the boys are thinking now. Russia is so close and none of the players have ever been at a World Cup before.
“They’re just two games away from it. This is real Cup final stuff now.”
Ireland’s goose looked cooked when they drew 1-1 in Georgia and lost 1-0 at home to Serbia in September, but they bounced back and last month’s 1-0 win over Wales in Cardiff teed up the tantalising play-off.
Given said: “The lads have done amazing. There was huge pressure for the Wales game.
“They had to win. It wasn’t like sometimes where you go and can take a draw. They can use the momentum from that game now to go into the Denmark one. It’s a similar situation now.
“They’ll be well drilled. They’ll keep the temperament. The mood in the camp must be so high after the Welsh game. They have to use that feel-good factor to bounce into the Denmark game.”
James McClean’s fabulous winner in Wales has re-energised the Irish side. Manager O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane are set to stay in the roles until the 2020 European Championships.
After the Serbia defeat in Dublin, O’Neill shipped a lot of flak, but Given – who retired for a second and final time from international football after Euro 2016 – has backed the duo.
“It’s funny – you’re either going to win the World Cup or get the sack!” Given said.
“People aren’t happy unless you’re the worst manager in the world or the best.
“There’s no middle ground. You feel for managers, especially at international level. Martin is very experienced.
“If he can get us to the World Cup, it will be a great achievement, not just by Martin and Roy, but by all the players.”
See full interview with Shay Given tomorrow morning on Donegal Daily and Donegal Sport HubTags: