Skipper Katie McCabe says the Republic of Ireland have learned from past mistakes and are feeling confident as they look to become history-makers in their World Cup qualifying campaign.
The Irish women, who have never qualified for a major tournament, fell short in their bid to make next summer’s Euros in England as they finished third in their group, two points behind second-placed Ukraine.
Having opened their World Cup qualifying bid with a 1-0 home loss to Sweden – currently the second-placed side in FIFA’s rankings – followed by a 2-1 win in Finland, the Republic continue their Group A fixtures by hosting Slovakia on Thursday (Live on RTÉ2) and then Georgia next week.
McCabe said: "We were really disappointed to not qualify for the Euros. I felt there was a real opportunity for us to do that.
"I also think we have a really youthful squad in terms of learning, and that we’ve learned from those mistakes made in that previous qualifying campaign.
"We lost 1-0 to Sweden but I really felt we stood toe-to-toe at times and could have pinched a point. We took the positives out of that into the Finland game and beat them.
"I’m confident in our ability, I know what we’re capable of. There’s really tough teams in our group and Sweden are going to make it really difficult for everyone. So for us it is aiming for that second spot. Hopefully we can continue to just take it game by game and gain the points. We need to remain with our feet on the ground and get the job done."
The Arsenal star added: "It’s not been done before, so to captain my country to a major tournament would be a highlight of my career.
"It’s something I really want and am really working towards, along with my team-mates and the staff. We’ve still got a long way to go, but for sure, if we got there, it would be special."
Northern Ireland Women qualified for their first major tournament in April by securing a Euros place via the play-offs, which McCabe feels can be a source of inspiration for Vera Pauw’s Republic side.
"Absolutely," the 26-year-old said. "Not so long ago we were playing Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying and beating them. To see the improvements they’ve made over the last few years is fantastic. They’re there, we’re not, we’re trying to get there and we’ll do our utmost to try to bridge that gap."
McCabe, October’s Women’s Super League player of the month, was speaking after being named as the first global athlete of Miss Kick, the brand founded in 2018 by former Manchester City and Liverpool youth player Grace Vella that produces kit and clothing designed for female footballers.