Skipper Robbie Keane is confident Ireland remain firmly in the hunt for World Cup qualification after bouncing back from their mauling by Germany by beating the Faroe Islands 4-1 on Tuesday night.
The win left Ireland in third place in Group C, four points adrift of Joachim Low's side, and one worse off than Sweden, who snatched a 4-4 draw against the group leaders. Ireland head for Sweden on March 22 and host Austria four days later and Keane believes those two fixtures could have a major say in how the group eventually pans out.
He said: "We knew Germany were the runaway favourites, and it's looking like that unless something changes dramatically. But I can't see that. It was always between ourselves, Austria and Sweden, so the two games coming up are two massive games, and they will probably decide who is going to finish second."
Keane added: "But we are still on track and with a good performance, after the bad week we had, that will give us a lot of confidence."
Keane was steadfast in his support for manager Giovanni Trapattoni before and after the game in Torshavn and was philosophical when asked about the media storm surrounding the Italian.
He said: "Listen, it's a free country, it's a free world. You can say what you want and all this internet stuff and Twitter and all that, it gives people the freedom to speak.
"That's no problem. You see the manager yesterday in the press conference - he is well able to handle himself.
"He has been through this situation many times before and he is well able to handle himself, and I am sure he will do."