Former Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer has praised the “spirit” within the squad ahead of Euro 2016.
The Green Army defied the odds to qualify for their second successive European Championship finals, taking four points off world champions Germany before eventually defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs.
Martin O’Neill’s side will take on Belgium, Italy and Sweden in Group E of this summer’s finals and former midfielder McAteer has hailed the “belief” that the coach, along with assistant Roy Keane, has installed into the squad.
He said: “I think what I like is what Roy and Martin have done bringing back that belief and team spirit. You feel that is coming back. The Germany game and even after the Georgia game you felt it really, that there was a unity and closeness about the lads.”
The 44-year-old has stressed the importance of getting off to a positive start at Euro 2016, and he believes they have been handed the perfect opportunity, with their first match against Sweden at the Stade de France on June 13.
McAteer added: “The best thing that’s happened us is Sweden in the first game. Sweden is our realistic opportunity to get points on the board. If we get a first win, it might give us the confidence to maybe get a draw and eventually get through. I think that’s a realistic aim.”
Ireland are available at 2.88 to begin the tournament with a victory, Sweden are on offer at 2.30 and the draw is priced at 3.10.