Thursday, October 8, 2009

Given wants to give the Irish a party next summer

Shay Given is desperate to give the Irish nation a chance to dance in the streets as he once did by securing another trip to the World Cup finals.

The Irish keeper was a teenager back in 1994 when Ray Houghton’s strike at Giants Stadium in New York saw off the mighty Italy and sparked one of the most memorable nights in Ireland’s football history.

Fifteen years on, 33-year-old Given will be between the posts as Ireland attempt to repeat the feat against the Italians, the reigning World champions, at Croke Park on Saturday evening with a place at next summer’s finals in South Africa at stake.

Asked about that night, Given said: “I was in Lifford, back in Donegal with the family watching it. It’s a special memory.

“Looking back over the history of Ireland, it was a special goal. Ray Houghton chipped (Gianluca) Pagliuca and we were celebrating around the cars in Lifford as if we had won the World Cup.

“It was a special atmosphere and great memories, and it is up to us as a team to try to recreate some of those memories. The only way we can do that is to get back to the World Cup.

“There will be young guys growing up in Ireland wanting to support us and South Africa next year, and it is up to us to get the country there.”

Even victory at the weekend would leave Ireland with work to do when they meet Montenegro in Dublin on Wednesday evening with Italy currently four points clear at the top of Group Eight and hot favourites to claim the one automatic qualification spot.

However, Given, whose side need two more points to at least clinch a play-off berth, is determined to heap as much pressure as possible on Marcello Lippi’s men for the final game at home to Cyprus.

He said: “Of course we would love to top the group, and that rules out the play-offs.

“But obviously, Italy are in the driving seat and even if they lose on Saturday, they have still got Cyprus at home on the Wednesday.

“But we would like to put the pressure on the Italians in the last game.

“We need two points to guarantee second and hopefully, we can get three on Saturday and then we will see what happens on Wednesday.”

There has been dismay and anger within the Ireland camp since they met up at their training base in Malahide on Tuesday at FIFA’s decision last week to seed the draw for play-offs, an announcement they believe leaves them at a considerable disadvantage.

However, Trapattoni, who called for the rule to be changed in the future, is nevertheless confident his team can get results against the best – as they did when they drew 1-1 in Italy in April – and Given agrees.

He said: “We will not be afraid of anybody, but I just feel what FIFA did was wrong.

“But when it comes around to if we do end up in the play-offs, then whoever we get picked against, we will be right up for it and results like the one away in Italy against the world champions will give us huge belief whoever we are drawn against.”

Given, like full-back Kevin Kilbane, will win his 99th senior international cap, if selected, against the Italians, and they would then become just the second and third Irishmen to complete a century against Montenegro, following in the footsteps of Steve Staunton.

However, that will all be secondary as the Manchester City goalkeeper attempts to make a return trip to the biggest stage of all after playing at the 2002 finals in the Far East.

He said: “It was the highlight of my Irish career to play in the World Cup finals.

“The Houghton goal was the highlight as a fan, but to actually play in a World Cup finals is something very special and something I want to be part of again.

“There are two massive games coming up and a lot of points at stake and important points. We have got to really focus on what we do as a team and not on me getting 100 caps.”

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