Robbie Keane admitted Italy's last-gasp equaliser in Saturday's World Cup qualifier was a massive blow for the Republic of Ireland.
Skipper Robbie and his team-mates looked set for a famous win against the world champions when Sean St Ledger headed them into a 2-1 lead just three minutes from time at Croke Park.
But the joy soon turned to pain when substitute Alberto Gilardino struck in injury time - guaranteeing Italy top spot and a direct route to next summer's World Cup Finals and consigning the Republic to a place in the play-offs.
Victory for the Republic would have left them one point behind Italy and taken Group Eight to the wire with Ireland up against Montenegro and Italy at home to Cyprus.
Robbie said: ""If it (the equaliser) was the 60th minute or something, it's a bit different, but the last few minutes, it's a bit heart-breaking.
"We are in the play-offs now and everyone always expected us in the play-offs. But when you are that close, who knows?
"Italy could have drawn on Wednesday. You never know.
"To be this close, it's obviously difficult. But we have to pick ourselves back up. It's done now."