Andrews eyes qualification spot
Keith Andrews insisted the Republic of Ireland's World Cup hopes are very much alive as they prepare for a crucial double-header next month.
The 32-year-old Bolton midfielder will sit out Wednesday night's friendly clash with Poland at the Aviva Stadium as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.
However, he will hope to be back at the heart of Giovanni Trapattoni's engine room when the Republic head for Sweden on March 22 and then entertain Austria four days later, with all three sides realistically fighting it out for second spot in Group C behind Germany.
There was much doom and gloom in Ireland in October when Trapattoni's men were trounced 6-1 on their own park by the Germans, but they currently sit in third place in the group, a point behind the Swedes and two better off than the Austrians and confident they have a genuine chance of claiming the runners-up berth.
Andrews said: "It was always going to be a tough group. Germany seem to qualify for tournaments at a canter every single time.
"If we are being honest, we have ear-marked second spot alongside Sweden and possibly Austria, and that's still very much the case.
"We have got a big double-header next month, away to Sweden and home to Austria, and we are going to have to produce two good performances to get some points on the board."
The Germany debacle came hot on the heels of a disappointing Euro 2012 finals campaign in which Ireland failed to claim a single point as they lost to Croatia, Spain and Italy to make a swift return home.
However, while admitting they perhaps did not do themselves justice either in Poland or in the face of a German storm, Andrews believes the quality of the opposition has been conveniently forgotten.
He said: "It was very tough. After the Euros, the media in Ireland, it was inevitable that they were going to be after the manager just simply by the nature of the business that we are in.
"The Germany game, obviously, was a tough night again. We didn't perform as well as we cold, but we also faced a side that were just on top, top form that night.
"They have some of the finest players on the planet, so even if we had been on top form, a result was probably not going to be realistic."
Such was the tide of dissent against Trapattoni's continued presence in the job that the Republic headed for the Faroe Islands with speculation rife that the Italian would be out of a job whatever happened in Torshavn.
In the event, they won 4-1, the manager won a reprieve and the players united squarely behind him.
Andrews said: "We seem to have this thing in our culture in England and Ireland where we build people up, build people up and then just want to knock them down.
"We need to remember where we were as a football nation before the manager took over and the good times that he has brought."
The Euros proved something of a watershed for Trapattoni, who has since turned to youth in the shape of the likes of James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady, and extended his search for fresh talent with Derby trio Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon all the in the squad for the Poland game.
Andrews said: "It was needed. Something had to give after the Euros, if we are being honest.
"If it had remained the same, it probably wouldn't have been a good outcome, there would probably have been a bit of a stale feeling around the place.
"At the moment, we are going in the right direction. The lads have come in and they have been brilliant, they really have, the likes of James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Robbie Brady.
"They have really come in and stamped their authority on games, and they are certainly the future for Irish football."