Sean St Ledger has urged the Republic of Ireland not to allow the ghosts of Euro 2012 and their German nightmare ruin their hopes of World Cup qualification.
Ireland head for Sweden tomorrow evening and then welcome Austria to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday knowing their Group C campaign will be effectively over if they do not emerge with a healthy return from the double-header.
They will do so having seen their efforts to shake off the disaster in Poland and Ukraine last summer partially derailed by a 6-1 home defeat by Germany in Dublin in October.
But St Ledger said: “The biggest thing I took from the Euros – we obviously didn’t do very well and it was disheartening – but sometimes you hold your hands up and you say you are playing against better players and you are playing against great teams.
“Spain will probably go down as one of the best teams of all time, and Germany wouldn’t be too far behind them.
“I think they are an exceptional side, and if you look at Bayern Munich and how well they are doing in the Champions League at the moment, you would say the future is bright for German football.
“I don’t think when you lose to a side like that you take too much because they are exceptional.”
The Republic bounced back from their mauling by the Germans with a 4-1 victory in the Faroe Islands four days later with the knives out for manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
On the same evening, the Swedes recovered from a 4-0 deficit in Berlin to draw 4-4, and that result alone will mean the Italian and his players will be under no illusions as to how difficult their task in Stockholm will be.
St Ledger said: “It’s a big game. When the group was drawn out, you would probably have said realistically Germany are going to win the group and you are really fighting it out for second.
“Sweden have got a brilliant record of qualifying for major tournaments, so we know what a tough game it’s going to be.
“They had a really good result, coming back against Germany, and we are going out there hopefully trying to get a result and then that will line us up nicely for the Austria game at home.”
St Ledger is back in the squad after five months on the sidelines, and while that might mean a set on the bench for the Leicester man, who has established himself as a regular under Trapattoni, he is raring to go after his enforced absence.
The 28-year-old said: “It’s been a long while out. It was five months before I played my first game the other day, so it was a long while – the longest it’s been in my career, really.
“I am ready to go, I think I have proven that. I have played two games in a short period of time, just exactly what’s required here with Friday and Tuesday.
“I am fit and available for selection.”