Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Trapattoni looking for legendary display
Giovanni Trapattoni has returned to his native Italy full of belief in his Ireland team.
The 70-year-old was quick to acknowledge his Ireland side will be big underdogs when they run out to face the world champions in Bari tomorrow evening.
However, the former Italy coach has been in football long enough to know the odds are not always the best indicator of what will happen on the night.
Trapattoni said: "Sometimes, I think about legends, I think about the famous legend of David and Goliath. We should be David and Italy should be Goliath.
"Legends remain legends but I have a lot of trust in my team, a lot of belief.
"We have to believe in everything we have done so far. We still have five matches to go before the end of the qualification and one of the most important matches is going to be tomorrow against Italy."
Italy have played seven senior internationals in Bari over the years - including the third-fourth place World Cup play-off against England at Italia 90 - and have won each of them, although Trapattoni did not want to be reminded of the statistic.
He said: "I am a believer, so don't jinx me."
Lippi's side extended their lead at the top of Group Eight from goal difference to two points on Saturday evening as a result of their 2-0 win in Montenegro while Ireland could only draw 1-1 with Bulgaria at Croke Park.
But a win for Ireland in Bari would throw the race for automatic qualification wide open again.
Asked if a win over his home country would be the biggest of his career, the wily Trapattoni said: "Thank God, I have had many other victories.
"It's a very important game for our qualification. I am the Ireland coach and I want to win - I would be a hypocrite if I said I wouldn't be happy with a win.
"But it's all about our qualification."
The game promises to be an emotional occasion for a man who is regarded as one of Italy's finest coaches despite his relative lack of success in the national job.
While he insists there will be no divided loyalties, he admits there will be a lump in his throat when the Italian anthem is played.
He said: "It's my national anthem - but I get equally emotional when I hear the Irish anthem."
Trapattoni will not name his team until tomorrow morning as he gives Celtic winger Aiden McGeady until the last minute to prove his fitness after he suffered a knee injury in the Bulgaria game, with Andy Keogh standing by to replace him.
But one man who will definitely be in the starting line-up is skipper Robbie Keane, who had a brief spell in Italy with Inter Milan after being snapped up by Lippi earlier in his career.
He is under no illusions about the task ahead of his side but is convinced they can leave with something to show for their efforts.
Keane said: "I am not naive enough to think we are going to come here and walk all over the Italians.
"It's going to be a difficult game. But we have to be positive enough to come here and hope to get a good result because, as players, you go into every game and you want to win every game.
"But if we get something out of the game - as long as we don't lose, that's the most important thing."
That is a sentence that could have come straight from the mouth of the current Ireland manager, whose safety-first reputation as a coach goes before him, both at home and abroad.