It’s D-Day – Deutschland Day – for the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night as they face the daunting task of taking three points from Germany in Tallaght to keep their Euro dreams alive.
Ireland have never before reached a major international tournament and the prospect of beating the second-best team in world football would appear insurmountable on the face of it.
There is a quiet confidence about this Irish side, however, that they can provide one of the biggest shocks in the recent history of international football to seal their package.
To see the dejected faces following last month’s 1-0 defeat to Ukraine – which leaves Ireland needing no less than a win to take second place – the sense was their chance was gone.
Certainly, it’s the closest an Irish team have come to qualifying against a side they comfortably trumped in every area except the one that mattered – the scoreboard.
Etched on the expression of every Irish player – and manager Vera Pauw – following the final whistle in Kyiv was the apparent realisation they had let their one chance slip.
Time is a great provider of perspective, however, and there is a belief in the Irish camp that they can secure a play-off at worst by taking three points from the already-qualified Germans.
“Germany are one of the best teams in the world, so we know we’ll have to pull off something spectacular next Tuesday to try and qualify,” said Celtic defender Keeva Keenan, a graduate of Raheny United and Shelbourne.
“We know how tough that will be, we could have made it a lot easier for ourselves if we beat Ukraine that night, that’s why it felt like it was game over for us.
“It’s gone, we will work hard, we will train hard, we will see what tactics Vera has for us in the next game because we know it will need to be something spectacular next Tuesday for us to do the job.
“We’ve just got to come together. You’ve got to do your best. There is not much more you can do, know what I mean? It’s just about getting your tactics right, getting your team right.
“We’ve nothing to lose at this stage, we need the win, we need the result, so it will be probably thinking like that and seeing what we get from it.”
Captain Katie McCabe, whose missed penalty compounded the sense of missed opportunity following Aine O’Gorman’s unforced own goal, feels they have it within them to prevail.
“I think we all know what’s at stake. If we beat the Germans, we get a playoff and anything less than that, we’re out. I think that’s motivation in itself for each and every one of the girls,” she said.
“For me as a captain, I’ll obviously be doing everything I can on the pitch and leading by example on the pitch, getting the girls together, making sure we know our game plan.”
The Kilnamanagh native added: “We’re all prepared and we’re all ready for that. It’s going to be a really good build-up to the game.
“I’m actually looking forward to the stretch of time that we have together on the pitch because, the previous two camps, we’ve only had a day or two here and there due to Covid situations.
“I’m excited to be in for the week, to work on things that we haven’t had time to work on previously.
“I’m really looking forward to it. As I said, the game is motivational in itself and I’m very confident that the girls will be ready for it.”