Big task ahead: Trapattoni02/06/2012 - 21:33:41
Giovanni Trapattoni is in no danger of under-estimating Ireland’s Euro 2012 opponents.
The Italian is renowned for his attention to detail, and has studied Group C rivals Spain, Italy – who lost 3-0 to Russia last night – and Croatia intently ahead of the big kick-off in Poland.
Interviewed during a question-and-answer session at the foot of the steps of the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta in Montecatini this evening, Trapattoni was in little doubt as to the task ahead of his players.
He said: “Spain are world champions, and we know the two most famous teams in Europe are Real Madrid and Barcelona and that the players in the national team mainly come from those two teams.
“They are the favourites. In each department – in defence, in midfield and in attack – they have amazing players.
“We know Italy and, despite what we have heard in the past few days and despite the result from last night, Italy is a nation and a team that has always achieved good results.
“They are very creative and they have players who are used to playing at a very high level, and this means they have a very strong background, so the match last night, I wouldn’t base anything on that.
“Croatia are unpredictable because when we think of these nations who were originally part of Yugoslavia and now are independent, they are living a second life and they are very, very strong.”
Ireland open their campaign against the Croatians, with whom they drew in Dublin last August, in Poznan on June 10, and then face Spain in Gdansk four days later.
They will hope their hopes of qualification remain alive when they return to Poznan to face Italy on June 18 in what could be a tense showdown.
The Republic are unbeaten in three meetings with the Italians under 73-year-old Trapattoni, drawing home and away in the last World Cup qualifying campaign and beating Cesare Prandelli’s side in Liege last summer.
Assistant manager Marco Tardelli too knows the scale of the challenge ahead of the Irish, but he already has a certain scenario in mind.
Tardelli said: “We played a friendly game against Croatia in Dublin and we saw that they are a very good team. [Luka] Modric as a player is a little bit like [Andrea] Pirlo.
“He plays a little bit more up front than Pirlo does and he is very fast. I am very scared about Croatia.”
He added with a smile: “But I already have a plan: we draw against Croatia, then we win against Spain and then we win against Italy and we qualify from the group.”
The comments of both men came as they were honoured by the town of Montecatini as part of the Festa della Repubblica celebrations, which saw them both added to a walkway of fame.
A crowd of hundreds gathered to hear them speak before the official ceremony was carried out on the eve of the Ireland squad’s departure for Hungary tomorrow.