SKIP the play-offs and go on to win the group in the European Championship qualifiers: that was the message from Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan today after Giovanni Trapattoni's side finished off a long season with a morale-boosting win over Algeria last night.
Ireland made it two wins against two World Cup-bound teams in the space of five days thanks to the 3-0 dismissal of a very poor Algerian side at the RDS, and for Ireland star Whelan the wins over Paraguay and now Algeria raised questions about what might have been -- and what may come in the future.
"You go into every game looking to win. I know we've had a lot of draws in the last while, so if we can start turning those draws into wins it will be good for us. It means we won't be in second place and in a play-off situation; that we'll be pushing on for top spot in the group," Whelan told the Herald.
"I think we have to aim for that now, winning the group for Euro 2012. We have assessed things since the last campaign, we know where we made mistakes and hopefully we can improve on them. But we have given ourselves a real chance of winning the group in the European qualifiers," added Whelan, who feels that, with the back-to-back wins over teams at the World Cup finals, Trapattoni's men have now, finally, laid the ghosts of Paris to rest.
"It was something we talked about when we came in at the start of the week, we all wanted to get over the France game and that's at the back of our minds now with the two wins, so we have to kick on from here," he said.
"It was good to get a win with a clean sheet. At the start of the week we were aiming for two wins from the two games and we achieved that. Algeria were a bit poor last night, but we've shown we can beat a team that's going to South Africa," said the Stoke man.
"It's not nice to be just playing friendly games while the teams we're playing are going to the World Cup. It's disappointing to think that we've just beaten two teams who will be in South Africa but we won't be there, but we have shown people last night that we deserve to be in South Africa.
"There were a lot of positives from last night: Paul Green and Greg Cunningham did really well; that will have everyone on their toes. We needed competition in the squad and we have that now with so many new players coming through."