Giovanni Trapattoni insists Ireland must not underestimate Kazakhstan as they look to consign their Euro 2012 campaign to history with a win over the minnows in Astana.
Trapattoni's 23-man squad shared jokes and laughter as they trained on the Astroturf of the 30,000-capacity Astana Arena on Thursday, but they know what lies ahead of them is a serious and difficult two-year long qualifying campaign.
Trips to Sweden, Austria and Germany lie in store following tonight's game against Kazakhstan and Trapattoni knows therefore it is essential that his team come away from the former Soviet republic with three points. A coach almost obsessed with meticulous preparation, Trapattoni has done his homework on the opposition and thinks a tough task lies ahead for his team.
"I've watched Kazakhstan's games against Germany, Azerbaijan and Sweden and they are a technical team," Trapattoni said. "They have a good spirit and a great attitude so we have to be mentally strong and have a positive attitude. We are all aware that it is very important to start our qualification campaign well."
Trapattoni stuck with his tradition of naming his starting XI a day before the game. The Italian confirmed that Wigan midfielder James McCarthy will begin his first competitive international and Jon Walters will start up front alongside captain Robbie Keane.
Kieren Westwood keeps his place in goal while Simon Cox gets the nod ahead of James McClean on the right wing, with Darren O'Dea partnering Sean St Ledger in defence.
Kazakhstan stand 116 places below the Republic in the latest FIFA rankings, but they have not had to fly 3,000 miles across five time zones just to get to the venue, and are confident of pulling off an upset.
"We would like to win. Only a victory will do. We wouldn't accept a draw," Kazakhstan captain Kairat Nurdauletov said.
"Our preparation went well. We have been preparing specifically for the Irish team.
"We feel very good. We want to prove that our football is improving and developing."