Let battle commence.
Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has delayed finalising his team for Saturday’s World Cup play-off first leg against France at Croke Park.
Trapattoni has named 10 of his starting line-up but has yet to decide whether Liam Lawrence or Aiden McGeady will fill the second midfield flank role.
Damien Duff is named in the team after overcoming an Achilles injury.
Jeremy Toulanan appears to be a major injury doubt for France who are already without Franck Ribery and Gael Clichy.
Lawrence was preferred to Stephen Hunt for last month’s game against Italy.
The Republic’s training formation on Thursday suggested that the Stoke player would start again on Saturday ahead of McGeady.
However, Trapattoni said on Friday afternoon that he had yet to make up his mind on the issue.
For the French, Toulalan has a groin injury and his club coach Claude Puel has said that the player would not have been risked if Lyon had been in action this weekend.
The Lyon player resumed light training on Friday after missing Thursday’s session but a French Federation statement indicated that he remained doubtful for Saturday’s game.
Andre-Pierre Gignac took a full part in training after picking up a knock on Thursday while Lassana Diarra is also fit after his late arrival from Real Madrid.
Striker Gignac has been playing up front alongside Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry in the bulk of France’s recent fixtures.
He is expected to start again at Croke Park with Karim Benzema having to be content with a place in the substitutes.
Like the Republic, the French side has had a settled look in recent games.
Hugo Lloris is again expected to start in goal with Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Eric Abidal and Patrice Evra operating in defence.
If fit, Toulanan is expected to be joined by Diarra and Yoann Gourcuff in midfield.
Trapattoni’s Irish line-up largely picked itself with the only apparent selection issue over whether Lawrence, McGeady or Hunt were handed one of the midfield flank roles.
Lawrence appears to be the man in possession of the shirt with his willingness to track back when the Republic are not in possession also impressing Trapattoni.
Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne are now an established central defensive partnership for Trapattoni with John O’Shea operating at right-back and Kevin Kilbane on the other defensive flank.
Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews start in central midfield with Duff on one of the flanks and Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle up front.
Republic of Ireland team: Given, O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Kilbane, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, Lawrence or McGeady, Keane, Doyle.
France squad: Carrasso (Bordeaux), Lloris (Lyon), Mandanda (Marseille), Abidal (Barcelona), Cissokho (Lyon), Escude (Sevilla), Evra (Manchester United), Fanni (Rennes), Gallas (Arsenal), Sagna (Arsenal), Squillaci (Sevilla), Diaby (Arsenal), Diarra (Bordeaux), Diarra (Real Madrid), Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Toulalan (Lyon), Malouda (Chelsea), Sissoko (Toulouse), Govou (Lyon), Anelka (Chelsea), Benzema (Real Madrid), Gignac (Toulouse), Henry (Barcelona), Remy (Nice) (BBC Sport)
This promises to be one hell of a titanic battle with Giovanni Trapattoni looking to his side for one last push for qualification after a superb run of results left them unbeaten in a very tough group but now they face a big test against a flagging French side that will be feeling all the pressure.
The Irish have more or less decided on their eleven for the game at what will surely be a raucous Croke Park and that home support may be key as the underdogs look for a positive result to take back to France in the second leg.
There is a lot of quality in the line up Trapattoni fields and they will not be overawed by the occasion having faced Italy twice in the group stages without falling to defeat and in the likes of Shay Given and Robbie Keane they have two world class players who can either keep their country in the tie or indeed put them ahead.
No doubt most of the floating support will be rooting for the Irish team, not least because FIFA folded to pressure by seeding the play-offs in such a way to give the so called European ‘elite’ another helping hand to South Africa 2010.
My Prediction: 1-0 to Ireland.