Republic of Ireland skipper Seamus Coleman will use the lingering pain of missing out on World Cup qualification to fuel a bid for a place at the Euro 2020 finals.
Coleman and his team-mates head into friendly battle with France in Paris on Monday evening knowing their season will be over after they face the USA in Dublin next weekend with their dreams of making it to Russia having been torn apart by Denmark in November.
By contrast Didier Deschamps’ men, who beat Ireland 2-1 in Lyon two years ago to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, will use the game – the first between the sides at the Stade de France since Thierry Henry’s handball effectively cost the Republic a trip to the 2010 World Cup finals – to hone themselves for another major tournament.
🗣ï¸ Seamus Coleman: I feel good, I feel fine. I've been getting forward at club level as much as ever. My fitness is good. A pre season will do me well. I'm back, I've got my boots on and I'm ready to keep improving. #COYBIG pic.twitter.com/HASansyfCa— FAIreland â½ï¸🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) May 27, 2018
Coleman said: “Obviously, the disappointment has grown a little bit more again recently with all the excitement of the World Cup and we’re disappointed not to be there.
“But since that night against Denmark, once we let that settle down, we needed to get prepared for the next campaign and that’s what we’re starting to do.
“But it’s a good thing that we’re disappointed not making these tournaments now. Especially under the manager, we have become very competitive.
“We had a great time at the Euros, we were unlucky not to qualify [for the World Cup] and to be disappointed shows that we want to be at these tournaments. That’s the level we are at now: we will be disappointed unless we qualify.”
Coleman is one of only four survivors from the starting XI two years ago in contention this time around with a fifth, midfielder Jeff Hendrick, having been left behind in Dublin because of injury.
The squad has an inexperienced look about it with Colin Doyle boasting the only two caps earned by the three goalkeepers and Airtricity League players Shane Supple and Graham Burke among a series of potential debutants.
Coleman said: “It definitely feels like there’s been a bit of a change with the new players coming in.
Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill speaking to the media at the Stade de France this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/jOBd9WednT— Damian Spellman (@DamianSpellman) May 27, 2018
“It’s up to them to step up and show they deserve to be at this level, and I’m sure they will. There’s definitely a bit of a change, but the objective stays the same: we want to win every game possible and qualify.”
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill will use the match to run the rule over some of his newcomers against opposition he believes could have a major impact in Russia, unlike Denmark counterpart and former team-mate Age Hareide, who has described the current French team as “nothing special”.
O’Neill said: “Did he say that? Well, I know the Danish coach – I used to play with him. He’s a very nice man – he wasn’t such a great player himself.
“It’s highly dangerous to talk about that. Personally, I think they’re very strong. They will be disappointed to lose the final of European Championships, but overall they have as good a chance as anybody of winning the World Cup.”