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Forde: Rio in our reach

IT'S always an odd time of the year for international football, forgotten in a wave of headlines about title wins and relegation trauma.

David Forde hasn't forgotten Brazil though and is more than happy to stick his head on the line with a bold prediction that come this time next year, Ireland will be en fete and on the way to Rio.

Time, distance and the volume of football played since Ireland's games against Sweden and Austria have somehow mitigated the sense of lost hope which followed David Alaba's last-gasp equaliser in the Aviva last month.

Forde has no doubt at all about the future. Ireland will qualify. He's convinced.

"I'm actually very confident. I think we will qualify. I just think on past performances and you look at the players who have come into the side, they improve your confidence. Seamus Coleman has been a revelation and James McCarthy. We look focused and hungry. I think we will qualify."

In Dublin to help launch the FAI's Summer Schools programme, Forde's words created a feint waft of optimism, although reality quickly returned.

Asked about the near certainty that Ireland will have to go to Austria and win as well as beat Sweden at home to have any chance, Forde stuck to his guns.

"If that's the case, we have Sweden at home and after the last game I think we can beat them here. Even going to Austria, we are good on the road and the record speaks for itself. It's still all to play for really.

"No matter what level you play the margins, even in Championship, it's those small little details. Trap goes on about them all the time and drums it into us 'little detail, little detail'. It's those little things whether it's a free or a corner."

Forde has a very different view of the two draws against Sweden and Austria, seen by many as missed opportunities.

"You don't underestimate draws, especially in today's game. Draws, unbeaten breeds confidence. We are still unbeaten. We are level on points with the two others. I think Austria are a better side than Sweden anyway. We could have come away from those games and we could have been talking about the European Championships.

Killer

"I know it was a bit of a killer blow (to concede late against Austria). If anything, you must take the positive out of that and learn a lot from it. Going forward it will galvanise us and make us stronger."

Forde has come a long way in a short time and after many years trying. He looks genuinely delighted to find himself in such exalted circumstances and his enthusiasm for the summer international schedule is infectious.

"Football is phenomenal how it pans out. One minute I am sweating saying 'Jesus will I make it to the Euros' and then all of a sudden I'm starting and No 1 the last few games.

"Everyone as a young kid dreams of playing England, especially at Wembley because it's a special place. That will be a massive game but more important is the World Cup qualifier – that is the main game and it's all geared up to getting fit and ready and being prepared for that one.

"It is a potential banana skin. I think we know what is at stake and the consequences. We all want to get to a World Cup and are champing at the bit at home to get a good result. That would give us 11 points and put us in a good position going into the remaining games."

Forde is already planning to be in New York for the June 11 clash with Spain in Yankee Stadium.

No question of a sick note from this man.

"I would certainly like to go. I have waited long enough to get into the side to go picking and choosing games. I would like to play in every game."

Forde believes that Giovanni Trapattoni will be spoiled for choice for the US trip simply because of the level of competition now within the squad. Previous tours to America have been undersubscribed.

"I think it's different as the dynamics of the team has changed. The old guard, some of the legends have gone, It's different for them as they have their caps under the belt," he said.

"The last tour was more about bringing players into the squad. There are younger lads in this squad and myself with not a lot of caps, so we want to get more and play."

On the club front, these are nervous days for Forde. Relegation wasn't supposed to be on the menu in the season he made it to the top of the international mountain.

Two points stand between Millwall on 56 and current favourites to occupy the third relegation slot, Barnsley, with Wolves another three behind, but this has been a strange English Championship season.

Just a month ago, the spread between a promotion play-off push and a survival battle was no more than six points.

A few bad results and the season went south. The image of Kevin Doyle, exhausted and beaten, being confronted by a young Wolves supporter illustrated that perfectly.

Showdown

Forde's season has been very different and a point away to Derby on Saturday will be enough to eliminate any fears about next season and allow a more luxurious review of heady moments on the road to Wembley and an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Wigan.

A point against fellow struggles Crystal Palace in midweek was enough to inch Millwall away from the danger zone and Forde is counting his blessings.

"I feel very good and very positive. In this division any point is massive. It's put us ahead of three teams now, bar a catastrophe away to Derby on Saturday we should be okay. We are hanging on by our finger nails

"Only three or four weeks ago, we had games in hand and had we won those we would only be a few points off the play-offs. We've had 11 games in 30 days since the semi-final so it seems to have taken its toll."

Forde has had a bird's eye view of Sean St Ledger's early days at Millwall, deployed in the old Paul McGrath role by Kenny Jackett.

"He has been immense. The manager has played him in a different role for him, sitting in front of the back four in a holding midfield role. He has excelled at it.

"He is that type of player, comfortable on the ball."


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