Irish players seem undaunted after drawing world champions Spain and former World Cup holders Italy in their European championship group. Croatia is the other team in the group.

"It is a tough draw. We said before privately we would have taken the host nations but we have drawn the world champions, the current holders, and to play a team like that will be fantastic,” said midfielder Keith Andrews.

“But we’ve drawn the world champions and the current holders. You know, to pit yourself against a team like that is great but the draw could have been kinder, no doubt about it. If you can’t look forward to games like that, pitting yourself against the best players, and one of the best players to have played, there’s something wrong.”

“We’ve come together nicely over the last few years as a squad, I’m sure by the time that game comes around we’ll be fully focused and aware of their strengths.”

Wolves striker, Kevin Doyle also said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“It could have been easier, it makes you realise what you’re involved in. The reigning champions, Italy, Croatia… they’re pretty decent teams. You know it’s not going to be easy but we have good confidence over the past couple of years so we fancy out chances.”

Meanwhile Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was not pleased to have drawn Ireland.

“I wanted to avoid Giovanni Trapattoni. Spain are very strong, for the first game against them we must arrive mentally prepared.”