Ireland must remember that night in Paris as they enter Talinn to face Estonia

Shay Given

When the ball struck the hand of Thierry Henry on that infamous night in Paris, the injustice done to all Irish soccer fans was felt across the world.

That heartbreak for Giovanni Trappatoni's men can never truly be erased, but an expectant fan base is hoping for some form of relief as they prepare to match wits with Estonia in Talinn tomorrow night.

It won't only be the fans that are thinking of that night in Paris, the players will likely be remembering it for motivation, however there is another reason why it should be in the minds of the players.

Especially for the midfield duo of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews.

What was lost in the aftermath of the hand of the devil affair, was the outstanding performances around the park. Ireland had gone through a similar path to reach the playoffs during that campaign as they did this one. A cagy, rigid unit that specialized in grinding out results on a regular basis.

However, when the pressure was on, traveling to Paris with a 1-0 deficit to overcome, the Irish side outplayed France all over the field.

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There was structure to the team, but their play was definitely not rigid. Keith Andrews was tirelessly snapping into tackles and winning the ball, but he was also making good use of it by retaining possession and moving the ball forward.

Glenn Whelan had a similar day as he repeatedly showed for the ball and rarely lost it.

When the pressure was on, the much maligned midfield duo, proved that they are capable of using the ball and expressing themselves in more artistic forms. Trappatoni may be hoping more for an Otto Rehagal managing Greece approach to the European Championships, but when facing off against a team like Estonia, the quality that is in the side shouldn't be restricted.

Confidence is a huge thing in every facet of life, not just sports, Whelan and Andrews have resumed their somber showings on the ball for the most part since that night in Paris, but they do actually have the ability to use it and retain possession.

This may not be a marquee matchup, as it was against a team like France, but motivation should be no problem in a playoff situation.

Motivation is not belief however.

Belief is something that may be lacking tomorrow night as Ireland are without key players like Kevin Doyle and John O'Shea. Estonia are not a powerhouse by any means though.

They are not a side that should be feared, they shouldn't be overlooked, but they should not be feared. Ireland should approach both legs of this tie without any sort of feeling of intimidation.

Estonia were very inconsistent coming through Group C. They were easily beaten by group winners Italy on both occasions that they met while they also lost to the Faroe Islands, which was that team's first European Qualifier victory in 16 years.

Victories against Northern Ireland don't tell you much as the northerners were lacking the exuberance, and talent, they had in previous campaigns. However what is noteworthy when looking at Estonia's results, were two away victories against Serbia and Slovenia.

Estonia won three of their five away games in the group but only managed victories at home against Northern Ireland and the Faroes. If Ireland aggressively approach their Talinn tie tomorrow nigh, they could find themselves in the driving seat returning to Dublin.

 Nobody wants to remember the heartbreak of Paris, but it is very important to remember the performance on the night.

This group of players is certainly not scared of the big moment which is a good thing, because the big moment is almost here.

Tweeting @Cianaf
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