Keith Andrews warns Euro 2012 opponents Ireland are feeling confident

 

Keith Andrews has warned the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 opponents that they will not be there just to make up the numbers.

The draw for the group stage in Poland and Ukraine handed Giovanni Trapattoni's men the task of fighting for qualification with reigning World and European champions Spain, fellow aristocrats Italy and Croatia.

However, while emerging from the Group C will be a daunting challenge, Andrews is adamant that he and his team-mates will travel confident they can do just that.

Asked if Ireland can qualify, the 31-year-old West Brom midfielder said: "Of course we can.

"We are not going there for the craic. We will leave that to the fans.

"They are there to enjoy themselves - we will enjoy ourselves by doing things right.

"We have done part of the job by qualifying. If we were going there just to make up the numbers, we might as well have just left it at the play-off in Estonia.

"We are going there full of confidence. We have qualified from a tough group, come through a tough qualifier and we are certainly going there to come out of that group."

Andrews and the bulk of his Barclays Premier League-based colleagues joined up with the rest of the squad in Malahide today as preparations began in earnest for the tournament.

Trapattoni was in charge of the Republic when they suffered a controversial play-off defeat against France to miss out on the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa and the Italian steered them into this summer's tournament via a similar route.

During his four years at the helm, the Irish have proved redoubtable opponents, drawing home and away with the Italians and securing a remarkable point in Russia to rekindle memories of the much-celebrated Jack Charlton era.

In some respects, they have shed their billing as perennial underdogs, although Andrews admits that will certainly assume that role once again next month.

Asked about shedding that tag, he said: "We have and we haven't.

"Some games we have and it probably hasn't suited us - in the play-off game against Estonia, we were aware we were the favourites and we tried to go about our business.

"But traditionally, we are and we probably do better being the underdogs - and in this tournament, we certainly will be tagged as that.

"It's one of those things. We often live up to it and we are hoping in June that we can carry that off."

Ireland will open their campaign against the Croatians in Poznan on June 10, and four days later, will tackle Spain in Gdansk, a fixture which will graphically illustrate the journey Andrews has made in the last four years.

He spent the 2007-08 season playing his football in League Two at MK Dons, and he admits his rise since has been a dream.

Andrews said: "I certainly count my lucky stars to see where I am playing now. I feel very lucky and privileged."

PA

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