The Ronaldo rematch takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday night, and the Ireland players are champing at the bit to gain revenge for the heartbreak in the Algarve in September.

Stephen Kenny's side played arguably their best game under the current regime in Portugal as they took the lead, and held it until the 88th minute.

Two late Cristiano Ronaldo headers turned the game in favour of the hosts, denying Kenny and his young charges a historic away win, a result which effectively ended his side’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

Dropped points against Azerbaijan and Serbia confirmed that Ireland would not grace the world stage in 2022 – it will be 20 years since Ireland played at the tournament once the football festival comes around next winter – yet there have been positive points to take from the team’s performances since the start of the current season.

The September window showed the potential of the side, while the October equivalent saw Kenny’s side step up a level with impressive victories over both Azerbaijan away, and the home international against Qatar.

However, they will be put to the test once again on Thursday night, and while the match with Portugal has nothing riding on it from an Irish perspective, there will be an expectation to put in a competitive performance at least.

Portugal travel to Dublin with a side filled with quality, however, it was the Manchester United forward who proved the difference in the first game and will no doubt, be the one to watch at the Aviva.

"He’s probably one of, if not the only, player in world football that could have scored those two goals," said Josh Cullen, speaking to the media following training with the squad earlier on Monday.

"We know what a special player he is and yeah we managed to [keep him quiet] for 89 minutes, but we would have much preferred to have done it for 95, or whatever it was in the end, that’s what we’ll be looking to do Thursday night.

"We can take a lot of encouragement from the performance we put in out there and we’ll be looking to do a similar job on Thursday night but turn a good performance into a good result as well."

Ronaldo's two late goals sealed the win for Portugal

Cullen believes that Ireland will be well prepared to take on the Portuguese once again, and that the players are looking forward to backing up the performance from the away game.

And while unsure as to whether the visitors will give Ireland a bit more respect in their approach to this game off the back of the first match, Cullen expects a tough task against a side full of quality.

"It’s hard to say [if they’ll give Ireland more respect]," said Cullen. "We know they’re a quality outfit.

"However they approach the game, I’m sure they’ll be well prepared, as we are. We know it’s going to be a tough game but it’s one we’re looking forward to, testing ourselves against some of the best players in the world.

"To be able to play in front of a full house for our country is a huge honour, and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to that and we’re all raring to go, to get out there on Thursday and put in a good performance and hopefully get a good result."

Cullen believes that the squad have been ever-improving since Kenny took over the reins of the international side, and the Anderlecht man said that he was speaking for the team when backing the manager to continue in the role.

"For me, 100%," said Cullen, when asked whether the manager should be given a new contract.

"It’s been a bit of a transitional period with the manager being new into the job for the last year or so, but I think you’re starting to see the rewards on the pitch in terms of results and we’re just looking to carry on building on that now.

"Working together has been really enjoyable, and I probably speak on behalf of all of the lads, that we’re fully behind the manager and believe in what he’s trying to do.

"We’re enjoying the style of football we’re playing and we’re starting to see the rewards results-wise, from the performances we’ve been putting in.

"For me, it’s a pretty straightforward answer, yeah 100%, I want the manager to stay."

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