Robbie Brady said scoring the goal that sent the Republic of Ireland into the last 16 at Euro 2016 felt like "an out-of-body experience".
His 85th-minute header gave the Republic a 1-0 win over Italy and set up a tie with France in Lyon on Sunday.
"What a moment for everyone involved. I am over the moon. I am emotional," said midfielder Brady.
"I grew up waiting to play at [the Euros]. I don't think we've anything to fear this weekend. Roll on France."
- Predict the last-16 results
- Republic face France, Wales play N Ireland and England meet Iceland
- Plot each team's route to the final - all the knockout fixtures
Wes Hoolahan missed a glorious chance shortly before his superb left-footed cross from the right allowed Norwich team-mate Brady to secure the Republic's place in the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
"We stuck at it and put in a great performance and in the end got the result we deserved," said 24-year-old Brady.
"We said we were going to do a job and we did it. To do it in front of my family is great.
"This was the last chance for us to push ourselves through. It has been a two-year project and we were not going to give up.
"All the plaudits to Wes Hoolahan as well. He put it right on my head. I would have done well to miss it."
Republic manager Martin O'Neill, who celebrated on the pitch with his players at the final whistle, said: "I thought the chance had gone when the goalkeeper saved from Wes.
"I didn't want it to be one of those nights of 'if only'.
"We deserved to win it. We dominated for periods of the game and played some phenomenal stuff."
He added: "There is a great spirit among the players.
"Spirit alone won't win you games. You have to have ability and we have shown that.
"Some players have come of age. We keep going; the players never give up."
France beat the Republic in the World Cup play-off in 2009 when Thierry Henry handled the ball in the build-up to William Gallas' winning goal in the two-legged tie.
"It is great for us because we are playing the host nation," said O'Neill.
"France are very strong. They will be favourites. It will be a big test for us, but one we are looking forward to immensely."
Brady added: "We can go as far as we allow ourselves in this tournament."