Former Ireland defender Mark Lawrenson believes Giovanni Trapattoni’s side will not qualify for the World Cup in 2014.
The Irish have been drawn in the same group as Germany and Sweden in qualifying for the tournament in Brazil, with the campaign kicking off in September.
They face Kazakhstan in their first match but Lawrenson feels the quality of Joachim Low’s side in particular, will be too much for them and thinks it will be a good while before Ireland feature in a major finals again.
He told Goal.com: “It’s a very tough group. It’s going to be extremely difficult. I think Germany have looked the best team in Euro 2012, that’s including Spain. So it’s going to be very difficult for Ireland even to finish second, I don’t see them qualifying for 2014.
“I think it may be a while before they ever qualify for anything again. They haven’t got that many players to pick from, a lot of players are from the Championship, and they actually need a group of players who are all good Premier League players to come through together.”
The former Liverpool defender was not surprised by Ireland’s failure to advance from Group C at Euro 2012 as he feels the quality of the other teams in the section was too much for Trapattoni’s side to handle.
“I don’t honestly think anybody who’s been involved with Irish football in the past 10, 20, 30 years expected Ireland to do too much better,” he said.
“I thought they might have been a bit more competitive but they just weren’t good enough.
“Trapattoni did a really good job in terms of qualification. The thing with Ireland is generally, he made them very difficult to beat and play against. But that was in the qualification group.
“As they’ve gone up a level, Spain, Italy and Croatia, they’ve got too many good players. In the qualifiers, they very rarely went a goal behind so they were always in the game so they could wear you down and make it difficult.”
Following their disappointing exit from the tournament there have been reports that senior members of the Ireland squad, including Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Richard Dunne were considering their international futures.
However, Lawrenson feels the lack of players coming through the ranks may prevent that from happening.
“I would say to them if they still think they can be of use to the team, then stay. The other problem is Ireland just haven’t got the replacements. Is there a better goalkeeper than Shay Given at the moment? Probably not.
“He didn’t have a good tournament and he didn’t look fit but when he’s fit there’s not a better Irish goalkeeper. Keane can’t play up front on his own. He’s got to play off somebody. Even Richard Dunne I don’ think they’ve got a better centre-back.”
The 55-year-old agrees with comments made in the Irish media that Sunderland winger James McClean should have been given a chance to impress in Poland-Ukraine especially after Ireland’s exit was confirmed after their second game.
“I think McClean has had a whirlwind start in the Premier League. I would agree with those journalists because once you lose those first two games and don’t qualify it didn’t really matter about the result in the last game, so I would have been inclined to play him,” he said.
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