Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni has pointed to his team's resilience against Italy as a benchmark of their strength and determination as they now face France, arguably the toughest opponent possible in the European section of World Cup playoffs.

"These games are like cup finals, we have come through the qualification group and are one of only five teams in Europe with an unbeaten record, that will give us self-belief going into these games," said the Italian after the draw was made in Zurich on Monday.

"We have done well so far but over the 180 minutes we must give something additional and we will have to be even more concentrated and focused than we have been until now," possibly alluding to his team's worrying tendency to concede goals just after scoring or in the dying moments of games.

However, the Irish manager is by no means fazed ahead of next month's challenge.

"We have come out of a group containing the current world champions, Italy, and have got positive results against them in both games. Now we face the 2006 World Cup finalists and our results to date will give us the conviction and the belief that we can get a result," he said.

France are coached by Raymond Domenech, and even though he took them to the World Cup Final in Germany in 2006, he is viewed as somewhat of an eccentric and has been much criticized during his tenure as national team manager.

France finished second in their qualifying group behind Serbia and went 6-3-1 during this qualifying campaign.

Les Blues lost their opening qualifying match to the Austrians in September 2008, and three draws against Romania (twice) and Serbia saw them finish up in second place.

Ireland and France have played each other 14 times and Ireland has won four, France has won 5 and the two have tied four times.

The two teams were pitted against each other in 2006 World Cup qualifying when Brian Kerr was in charge of the Irish team.

The sides played a scoreless draw in Paris On October 9, 2004, and a Thierry Henry wonder goal at Lansdowne Road sealed a 1-0 French victory in September 2005.

On paper the French are streets ahead of Ireland with players like Henry, Anelka, Ribery, Evra, Vieira, Benzema, to name but a few of the superstars in the squad. When you tally those names up against Andrews, Whelan, St. Ledger, Keogh and Best (Leon, not George -we wish), as honest as they are, the size of the task ahead looks all the more daunting.

Even assistant coach Marco Tardelli admitted last week that this draw was the one he feared the most.

“All the teams are very good, but I would prefer Greece, maybe, and I would prefer not to meet France, because France have many good players, as do Portugal,” said the World Cup winner.

However, the ability of the current crop of French players to play as a team has been questioned, and reports of internal squabbling during the current campaign comes as a hopeful sign for the Irish.

A quite serious blow to Irish hopes was done when we came out of the hat first, meaning that the first game is in Dublin before the return tie in Paris.

It would have suited Ireland’s system of play much more to have the first game in Paris and then return to Croke Park. 

However, all these things were beyond our control, and now we can only look forward and hope that Trapattoni's systems of stifling the opposition and the unity that he has instilled in his players is enough to overcome the silky skills of a temperamentally suspect French team.