And now that it has come to pass? “France have got an abundance of top players so that makes the tie quite daunting but, having said that, a lot will be down to how the teams go about things. I don’t want to go too much into their problems but it hasn’t been a straightforward qualifying campaign for them. We’ll be dissecting all the games they’ve played – the manager is very thorough with those things.
“We’re a strong team and we’ve proven that in the qualifying games. The manager’s organised us, he’s created a very strong team spirit, a strong mentality. And we’re going to show all of that when we face the French in what is the most glamorous tie we could have had. No matter who we got it was going to be difficult. We would have players on a similar level to Greece but we probably would have been expected to win that game and that was the downside of that. We would have been expected to go through and that creates a sort of pressure in itself. But this tie is the opposite. I think we’re well and truly underdogs. But everybody will be behind us and what a great achievement it would be if we get to South Africa by knocking the French out in the play-offs.”
He continued: “The fact is we have a strong team spirit and we showed that against Italy. We could have won both home and away against Italy. We’ve proved ourselves against the very best opposition there is. I don’t think the French are as strong a team as Italy as a team. I think the Italians are stronger. The individuals, probably not.”
Much has been made about the problems of disunity in the French camp under manager Raymond Domenech, with Brady admitting that he had received less than glowing reports about their qualification campaign from a certain well-placed Frenchman in north London.
“I know Arsene Wenger goes to watch pretty much all their games and he told me that he didn’t think they were going to top their group a while ago,” said Brady, who opined that there is now some difference in quality between their attack and defence.
“If you look at their players, you have Ribery with Bayern Munich, Henry at Barcelona, Benzema at Madrid and Anelka at Chelsea – so they have some of the best attacking players in the world. I would agree that since Blanc, Thuram and Desailly, they haven’t got defenders of the calibre they once had. They have conceded goals – Scotland went to Paris and beat them. It’s going to be a tall order but it can be done.”
And Brady thinks that, for inspiration from within, the Irish players need look back no further than the last time some of them took the field in Paris – when Brian Kerr’s Ireland drew 0-0 in the Stade de France five years ago.
“We usually come up with a 15-minute summary on video for our players to show them what they can do. But their players are very well known to us.
“We’ve got a history of big World Cup matches against the French so this one is just another one in that line of games. It’s about time we came out on top.”