The bitter disappointment of Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign has made the squad more determined than ever to qualify for another international tournament, according to Stoke striker Jon Walters.
Ireland headed to Poland this summer on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run but their hopes of another unlikely assault on the knockout stages evaporated after they lost all three of their games and only scored once.
Although their group contained Italy, Spain and Croatia, the way they capitulated, and Giovanni Trapattoni’s supposedly conservative tactics, left a large number of the fans questioning the head coach’s position.
Trapattoni remains in charge, however, and stressed on Sunday that he was ready to breathe life in to a new era in which players like Walters will be given a chance.
Walters, who made three substitute appearances in Poland, is expected to replace Kevin Doyle up front in Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Kazakhstan and is determined to lift the mood among the country’s football fans after they endured a disappointing summer.
“It was good to be there at the Euros, but we didn’t do well and that left us with a sour taste in the mouth,” Walters said.
“Once you have been to an international tournament you want to have that experience again so we have to go on and do well this week and prove that we can qualify again.”
The questions about Trapattoni’s leadership intensified when Damien Duff and Shay Given called time on their international careers despite both players continuing at domestic level.
An unwelcome barb then followed from Darron Gibson, who refused a call-up for this week’s game in Astana as he is still smarting from his failure to come off the bench at the European Championship.
Trapattoni’s plan to ask Duff to come out of retirement less than two weeks after quitting has added yet more confusion to the build up for this week’s game, but Walters insists the squad are united and are pulling in the same direction under the manager.
“We are all together as a squad,” the 28-year-old said. “The atmosphere is just the same (as before).
"Players retire at any level of the game and that’s what (Duff and Given) have done because of the stage they are in their careers, but the manager brings us together and as a group we are all together and ready to go.”
Robbie Keane failed to impress during the European Championship, leading some to suggest that the 32-year-old would call time on his 120-cap international career.
The striker has vowed to play on, however, and is showing early signs that he is ready to lead the country in to a successful qualification campaign, Walters says.
“(Keane) looked very sharp in training on Monday given that he just came off a big flight,” Walters said. “He put a couple in the top corner so he is looking good.”
After being drawn in a group with Germany, Sweden and Austria, the Republic will be thankful to start their qualifying campaign against Kazakhstan, who sit 116 places below them in the rankings.
The former Soviet republic is more renowned for Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional movie character Borat that their football, and even though Walters has warned against complacency, the former Ipswich man expects to claim three points.
“These are the games you want to win,” Walters added. “I don’t think any match at international level is easy but hopefully we will go there and get the result that we need because it’s not an easy group.”