Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny has tempered expectations for the upcoming European Championships qualifying campaign but insists his side will be 'absolutely positive in their approach' ahead of their opener against Luxemborg in March.
Speaking at Thursday's training squad and backroom team announcement, the Dubliner insisted his side would play without an inferiority complex despite a difficult group draw.
"A top two finish doesn't get you through," he said. "There are your nine group winners, the two hosts, which are Slovenia and Hungary, and one second-placed finish between the nine groups.
"It's extremely difficult to qualify. In the 40 years of its existence, we've never qualified. We've got a tough group - Italy, Sweden, Iceland - we're the fourth seeds.
"We need to be absolutely positive in our approach. We'll take the first game against Luxemborg and try be very positive and try to blood the players that we feel deserve an opportunity."
He added: "We're playing to win games. We don't have an inferiority complex. We're trying to win all the games that we can.
"I'm only getting to grips with the players and only getting to know them now."
We're playing to win games. We don't have an inferiority complex...
The squad named today is made up almost entirely of League of Ireland players and his backroom staff includes former Ireland international Keith Andrews as assistant coach.
"For a lot of the players - last season was their first season in the league. To jump from the U21s last season, from 1996 to 1998, is a two-year cycle.
"Some of the players are in the First Division and in the Premier, [the camp] gives me a chance to look at them in real close quarters, even if it's only for three days.
"We have to find a compromise with the clubs in that regard, because it's outside the international window. We appreciate all the clubs for making their players available to us.
"It gives an idea of their mentality and where they are themselves."
What are Stephen Kenny's expectations for his players ahead of the U21 Euros qualifying campaign beginning in March? 🎧
📍 Ireland take on Luxembourg at Tallaght Stadium on March 24 📅
For more reaction to today's squad announcement 👉 https://t.co/cblvkEWJvZ pic.twitter.com/rfaVseMkcz
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) January 24, 2019
UEFA U21 2021 European Championships Qualifying
Group One Fixture Schedule
March 24: Luxembourg (H)
September 6: Armenia (H)
September 10: Sweden (a)
October 10: Italy (H)
October 15: Iceland (a)
November 14: Armenia (a)
November 19: Sweden (H)
March 26: Iceland (H)
March 31: Luxembourg (a)
October 13: Italy (a)