Harry Arter has admitted reaching the World Cup finals with the Republic of Ireland would more than make up for his Euro 2016 misery.
The 27-year-old Bournemouth midfielder missed out on last summer’s festivities in France after damaging a thigh muscle on the eve of the squad’s departure and as his team-mates fought their way to the last 16, he could only look on from afar.
However, he was in the thick of the action as Ireland booked themselves a play-off berth with a 1-0 victory in Wales on Monday evening with a trip to Russia now dangling tantalisingly before them.
Asked if his misfortune had provided added motivation, Arter said: “Yes, but that aside, even if I did go to the Euros, to play in a World Cup is… I wouldn’t say a much bigger competition, but it’s the pinnacle I think for any footballer.
“It’s a tournament that’s obviously only every four years and for a nation like Ireland to qualify would be a massive achievement, and to be part of a group that could do that would be something that I’d be ever so proud of.
“They’re dreams that you have as a young kid, to play in a World Cup, so of course it would be something that I’d be excited about.”
Ireland’s hopes looked to have been dashed last month when they failed to win in Georgia and then lost for the first time in the campaign to Serbia in Dublin.
However, back-to-back victories over Moldova and Wales, who had not lost a competitive match in Cardiff for four years, catapulted them back into second place in Group D.
Their work is far from done, however, with one of the four seeded teams standing between them and their dreams, but having beaten world champions Germany, perennial European challengers Italy and now Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales, Arter is not afraid of what may lie ahead.
He said: “This group always responds to big games and big occasions, this is just another one. You look at Italy in the Euros and Germany just before that in the qualifying campaign – this side has proved that we can beat anyone on our day.
“This was a huge game and a tough game, and we came out victorious. We’ll definitely attack the play-off games with confidence.
“We’ve played against Italy in a game where we had to win, we’ve played against Germany where we’ve had to win, and Wales.
“They got to the semi-finals last year and they’re a great side, so no matter who we play, it’s something where I know we’d have confidence.”