Forde hopes for Italy repeat
David Forde has set his sights on a remarkable double as he prepares to lock horns with Italy once again.
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The 34-year-old Republic of Ireland goalkeeper is hoping to win a 17th senior cap against Italy at Craven Cottage on Saturday three years after making a first start for his country against the same opposition.
That night in Liege, Belgium, a much-changed Ireland side captained by Hull defender Paul McShane beat a team including Giorgio Chiellini, Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Giuseppe Rossi and Giampaolo Pazzini 2-0 with goals from Keith Andrews and Simon Cox.
Italy gained their revenge when they confirmed the Republic's swift departure from the Euro 2012 finals with a 2-0 win in Poznan, but Forde retains happy memories of his full debut and is hoping for a repeat.
He said: "I am certainly looking forward to it. I made my first start for Ireland against Italy away in Liege, so I have a lot of fond memories there.
"If we had another one of those nights, I'd be delighted. It was a bizarre night, it was a fantastic night.
"You know, we are a good underdog and I am sure we will put in a good performance on Saturday."
Manager Martin O'Neill has been pleased with recent performances despite results not quite going his way.
Sunday's 2-1 friendly defeat by Turkey at the Aviva Stadium was Ireland's second in succession, and O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane's record to date includes just one victory in four games.
While that does not cause the manager undue concern - he believes but for sub-standard finishing and good goalkeeping, his side would have beaten both Serbia and the Turks - a return to winning ways before the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in September would be more than welcome.
Forde said: "It's not nice being beaten and we want to start winning games and turning them around.
"The last couple of games now, we have come in and said we should have taken our chances and we should have been comfortable in games where we have left the door open and allowed teams in, and you get punished at this level.
"It's disappointing, but there are still a lot of positives there and the main target and the main aim is Georgia in September."
Addressing that recent record in their remaining summer fixtures could prove challenging, with World Cup finalists Costa Rica and Portugal awaiting Ireland in the United States after their clash with the Italians, who are also Brazil-bound
However, far from being daunted by what lies ahead, Forde is relishing the chance to test himself against one of European football's traditional powers this weekend.
He said: "Yes, I think it could be a busy night. They are a fantastic outfit. They are going to be chomping at the bit, they will want to be at it."
Forde is likely to return to the starting line-up at Craven Cottage having sat on the bench on Sunday evening as Rob Elliot made his senior international debut, and the chance to go head-to-head with Gianluigi Buffon, the latest incumbent in a dynasty of fine Italian keepers, is one to which he is looking forward immensely.
He said: "Sometimes it's not nice to watch games, but you get a different perspective and it just gives you that bit between your teeth and a bit of hunger, and I'm looking forward now to a good game on Saturday against Italy.
"As a professional footballer, you want to play games, that's what you are in it for. I'd love to be back in and playing.
"Buffon is probably the best keeper in the world currently. They have always come up with top, top keepers.
"But I am looking forward to the challenge of playing against one of the best keepers in the world on Saturday."