Monday, March 30, 2009

Brady in confident mood

Liam Brady believes Ireland have got world champions Italy worried simply because of their choice of venue for Wednesday night's Group eight qualifier.

The Irish squad headed out from Dublin this afternoon for the Group Eight clash with the Italians at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari having conceded a two-point lead to Marcello Lippi's men as a result of their 1-1 draw with Bulgaria at Croker on Saturday night.

Until the weekend, Ireland and boss Giovanni Trapattoni, were level on points with the World Cup holders and genuine competition for automatic qualification.

That, in the eyes of assistant boss Brady, who played under Trapattoni for Juventus and also for Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Ascoli, is the main reason Wednesday's game is being staged in the south of the country.

He said: 'I know the Italian Federation, when they feel it's a difficult match, they like to take their games down south. When they are much more confident, they play up north, so it's a good sign for us that we are playing there.'

The game will see 70-year-old Trapattoni lock horns with his successor as national boss in a contest which has been eagerly anticipated since the draw was made.

Brady said: 'I suppose Giovanni is the king of Italian coaches, isn't he, and there is going to be huge interest in the battle between Lippi and Giovanni.

'Lippi is reigning world champion and it is going to be huge over in Italy.'

Ireland arrived in Bari in determined mood, still getting over the disappointment of conceding a late equaliser against the Bulgarians which, if it did not exactly release their grip on at least second place and a play-off berth, certainly loosened it a little.

The trip to Italy will undoubtedly be the most difficult challenge of the qualification campaign, and with away games in Bulgaria and Cyprus to follow before they welcome Lippi's side to Croke Park in October, they are well aware just how significant a positive result could be.

Brady said: 'In this group, if you look at it, there has been very little in the games played already as regards teams winning by large margins.

'Nobody has really had an easy game and I think we are in for much of the same on Wednesday. We feel as if we can go there and get something from the match, and we are in a very good position points-wise in the group.'

The game will inevitably rekindle memories of Ireland's famous World Cup finals victory over the Italians at New York's Giants Stadium back in 1994, and Brady is hoping those memories might provide an added inspiration.

He said: 'Well, that was a great moment, wasn't it? I don't think the Italians expected us to win that afternoon in the Giants Stadium, but I was there and what a great feeling it was to beat Italy in a World Cup match in the finals.

'We are going into this situation with a healthy amount of points on the board, and I think we will give them a hell of a game. You never know, we might come up with something like that. That would be nice.'

Lippi will be without a series of players through injury, including in-form Udinese striker Antonio di Natale, but Trapattoni too has his problems.

Newcastle winger Damien Duff was ruled out of the game with a hamstring problem last week, while Aiden McGeady has recovered from the bruised foot which threatened his participation against Bulgaria, but is now struggling with a knock to his knee and Wolves striker Andy Keogh is standing by.

Brady said: 'It's a little bit swollen, so he has just had a walk today. We will get him over to Italy tonight and assess him in training tomorrow evening and the manager will make a decision then whether he plays.

'He is a slight doubt, but I think he will be okay to play again on Wednesday.'

Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane all missed training at Malahide this morning, but only as a precaution, and all three are expected to be available

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