PARIS (AFP) - Irish eyes should be smiling ahead of the Republic's World Cup playoff clash against France here on Wednesday despite the visitors trailing by a goal, according to team manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
"I'm confident, because in football every match is different. From the opponents to the circumstances, nothing's ever the same," Trapattoni told reporters here on Tuesday.
"I've told all my players to be confident. We can believe in ourselves."
Statistics are firmly against the men from the Emerald Isle, who haven't beaten France away since 1931 and, notably, haven't beaten a top ranked team in official competition since a win over Turkey in qualifiers for Euro 1992.
But with a place in the World Cup at stake, it's no surprise the Republic - aiming to qualify for the first time since 2002 when they made it to the second round - want to believe in a dream finale to their campaign.
While France coach Raymond Domenech says his charges are "impatient" to show their superiority, the Irish know they have everything to win.
"The pressure's on the French," said the Republic's captain Robbie Keane. "They're playing at home and the home fans will be expecting them to play well.
"We've got nothing to lose, and everything to win," added the Spurs marksman, one of the few survivors from the 2002 vintage.
Trapattoni hopes to send out the same team that lost 1-0 at Croke Park in Dublin on Saturday, when a deflected shot from France striker Nicolas Anelka gave 'Les Bleus' a first leg advantage.
"Prior to yesterday (the final training session) I wanted to make some changes," added the Italian.
"But I want all the same players to be given their chance again. They've all recovered and I'm sure they'll be ready to go another 90 minutes."
An Irish goal at the Stade de France would change the landscape dramatically for Trapattoni's men and add impetus to their bid for a place at the World Cup finals in South Africa next summer.
It needs not be said that a France goal would put Raymond Domenech's France side firmly in the driving seat, and make qualifying even more of a formality.
France and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry warned they would not be sitting back and waiting for the Irish to attack.
"We've won over there but we still have a battle on our hands. And it won't be easy because they're a tenacious side," he said.
"But when we start playing, it will be to win. We won't be sitting back relying on the goal we have from the first leg."
Despite that pledge many France players, including Henry, will be aware that the Stade de France, and its fans, have been fickle partners in the past.
Scotland striker James McFadden hushed the Stade scoring one of the goals of his career in a 1-0 win over France in September 2007.
And, it is only since a 1-1 draw with Romania earlier this year that France has lifted its game in the stadium.
Also looming is the dark memory, still talked about by many French football fans, of Les Bleus' failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup after being eliminated by Bulgaria.
Needing only a draw from their final two qualifiers, Israel beat Gerard Houllier's France 3-2 at home despite France leading 2-1 seven minutes from the end.
Bulgaria then pounced on a fluffed cross from second half substitute David Ginola to go up the field and score their second goal to hand them a 2-1 win thus eliminating France.
That exit came 16 years ago, almost to the day, on November 17. But Domenech insists it is not on his mind: "The past is the past."
But in the back of his mind Domenech, whose wacky ways with the media has led to him having a love-hate relationship with the French public, must be praying his team of mostly world class players come good on the night.
Prompted that it could be his last match in charge, the Frenchman was his typical evasive self saying: "I'm not wavering from what my job is, which is to prepare the players for the match - not for before the match or after the match."
|USA will win a World Cup, says Donovan|
|Pumas UNAM 2 Independiente del Valle 1 (3-3 agg, 3-5 on penalties): Hosts suffer shoot-out heartbrea|
|Gracia leaves Malaga as Rubin Kazan loom|
|Messi: Argentina deserve to be Copa America champions|
|Dybala included in Argentina´s preliminary Olympics squad|
|Mourinho and United a ´good wedding´ - Ancelotti|
|Klinsmann: Copa America better than Euros|
|Messi: Joining Barcelona not an easy decision|
|Carrico receives four-game ban for homophobic slur|
|Dani Alves wants Atletico to win Champions League|
|McNair out to impress ´world-class´ Mourinho|
|Ranieri: Premier League survival is Leicester´s priority next season|
|Argentina forward Lavezzi suffers hamstring scare|
|Koeman talks ´very positive´, say Southampton|
|Rami replaces injured Varane in France´s Euro 2016 squad|
|Matthaus applauds Gotze for rejecting ´easy solution´ of Liverpool|
|Suarez silenced his doubters - De Boer|
|AFC Champions League Review: Jeonbuk, Shanghai SIPG progress|
|Klopp can take Liverpool right to the top, says McAllister|
|Lindelof happy at Benfica amid Real Madrid, Barcelona links|
|Zidane is perfect on and off the pitch - Lippi|
|Bale: Zidane has brought the best out of Real Madrid|
|Favre takes over as Puel and Nice part ways|
|Liverpool complete Karius deal|
|Van Gaal was treated poorly by United, but Mourinho will be a success - De Boer|
|Dani Alves: I have won more titles than Pele|
|I know who I´m taking - Conte sure on Euro 2016 selection|
|Xavi backs Guardiola to ´change the face of English football´|
|Lucescu appointed Zenit boss|
|Manchester United and Liverpool hit with €40,000 fines|
|Weinzierl: I have nothing to lose at Schalke|
|Rangers complete Barton signing|
|Italy better placed as underdogs ahead of Euro´s - Motta|
|Cantona: I love Mourinho, but he is not Manchester United|
|Ben Arfa wants Lyon move - Aulas|
|David Silva praises Iniesta´s Copa del Rey heroics|
|´It was a little scare´ - Ronaldo plays down injury fears|
|Eder the real deal for Lille|
|Van Gaal treated unfairly during Manchester United spell - Daley Blind|
|Ginola doing ´very well´ after heart surgery|
|Depay rules out Manchester United exit following Van Gaal departure|
|Hojbjerg confirms desire to leave Bayern|
|Ronaldo leaves Madrid training early after knock|
|Abbiati unimpressed with Milan players´ attitude|
|Pepe calls on Madrid to continue making history|
|Ayestaran signs two-year deal with Valencia|
|Montolivo, Antonelli sign new AC Milan contracts|
|Ronaldo ready for UCL final after being rested from practice match|
|Hummels, Sanches deals will not stop Bayern spending - Rummenigge|
|Oblak´s penalty heroics, Griezmann´s Barcelona brace - Atletico Madrid´s route to the Champions Leag|
|Salvio all but confirms Gaitan will join Atletico Madrid|
|Motta warns PSG over Ronaldo, Neymar interest|
|Europa League Mourinho´s best hope for United trophy - Sheringham|
|Injustice if Iniesta never wins a Ballon d´Or - Del Bosque|
|Van Gaal didn´t deserve United sacking - Blind|
|I´ll be happy if we make Euro 2016 semi-finals - Del Bosque|
|Koke: Why would I want to leave Atletico?|
|Fofana could retire aged 25 - Lyon president|
|Sandro set to leave Barcelona|
|Silva plays down injury worries ahead of Euro 2016|
|United would be brave to appoint Mourinho, says Schmeichel|
|Neymar adamant he is happy at Barcelona|
|Wilshere: Arsenal play me out of position|
|Ryan backs former coach Neville|
|Keane talks up Galaxy move for Ronaldo|
|´Free agent´ Diarra wants Mourinho reunion|
|Eintracht Frankfurt beat Nuremberg to secure Bundesliga status|
|Manchester United to turn to Mourinho, the man who most resembles Ferguson|
|Manchester United kids are Van Gaal´s legacy - Ferdinand|
|´Sex-masochism´, ´fat man´ and ´Mr Mike Smalling´ - Van Gaal´s best quotes as Manchester United mana|
|I have fulfilled a long-held ambition - ´Very disappointed´ Van Gaal´s statement in full|
|Van Gaal should call time on career after Manchester United sacking|
|Better than Busby? - The stats behind Van Gaal´s United exit|
|Van Gaal sacked by Manchester United|
|Suarez expected to miss Copa America group stage|
|Herrera wants more trophies with Manchester United|
|FIFA sacks deputy secretary general Kattner|
|Asensio wants to fight for his chance at Real Madrid|
|SFA to investigate Rangers-Hibernian disorder|
|Van der Wiel takes aim at Blanc after PSG exit|
|Halilovic: Missing Euro 2016 would not be a tragedy|
|Van Gaal leaves United training ground as Mourinho speculation goes on|
|Zanetti rules out Inter move for Simeone|
|Rodgers adamant Celtic is not a step down|
|Sanches chose Bayern Munich over Manchester United|
|Rosicky was the perfect player for Arsenal - Wenger|
|Tonelli becomes Napoli´s first close-season signing|
|Thigh injury rules Steffen out of Euro 2016|
|Gotze is a perfect fit for Liverpool - Hitzfeld|
|Hummels completes Bayern move after passing medical|
|Guardiola era has been sensational - Neuer|
|Bayern will never sign a Messi or Ronaldo - Hitzfeld|
|Wilkins backs Mourinho appointment|
|Suarez´s Copa America hopes alive despite hamstring injury|
|Delneri exits Verona following relegation|
|Ireland´s Wilson ruled out of Euro 2016|
|Gotze looking forward to new season with Bayern|
|Pirlo, Giovinco out of Italy Euro 2016 squad|
|Coleman signs new Wales contract|
|Gotze talk intensifies as Bayern Munich forward leaves agent|
|Rami called up by France following Varane injury|
|United States v Ecuador: Klinsmann pins hopes on Yedlin as Copa preparations continue|
|Gabriel, Lucas Lima unsure on Santos futures|
|AC Milan to terminate Mihajlovic deal in June|
|Emery confirms Banega will leave Sevilla|
|Neville still unsure over Valencia future|
|Van Gaal arrives at United training ground amid Mourinho talk|
|Messi: We suffered but we won together|
|Evra confirms two-year Juventus deal|
|Son unfazed by Tottenham exit rumours|
|Argentine footballer dead after being struck in head|
|Arnautovic refuses to commit to Stoke|
|Sirigu: PSG wanted me out|
|MLS Review: Galaxy held by Earthquakes, Timbers end skid|
|Alba: Messi deserves credit for my goal|
|Pique: Barca deserved Copa del Rey title|
|Smalling admits relief after Lingard winner|
|Suarez, Barca unsure on extent of injury|
|Luis Enrique revels in Barca´s spectacular end to season|
|Emery proud in Copa del Rey defeat|
|Rooney hopes FA Cup lifts United - with or without Van Gaal|
|Iniesta: Copa del Rey win caps magnificent season|
|Barcelona 2 Sevilla 0 (AET): Alba and Neymar decide heated Copa del Rey final|