On the eve of Ireland’s massive tie with Italy, Killian Woods gauged the mood of the Irish management, and heard a surprisingly early team announcement…
After staying on the training ground for an extra hal hour with the players earlier this afternoon, Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni finally emerged for the pre-match press conference at Gannon Park in Malahide today.
The calm vibe in the large open room, filled with Italian and Irish journalists alike, was in contrast to that off the visible stormy sea accompanied by the rain beating down from above.
Following his opening statement to the media, Trapattoni was not hiding anything and when asked about his line-up for tomorrows clash at Croke Park he streamed out the starting team from goalkeeper to striker.
The line-up is as expected, with the only change to the team that started against Cyprus on the wings, where Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence line out on the left and right respectively.
Speaking on the inclusion of Lawrence, Trapattoni said, “he has a good personality, when we saw him, we thought about this situation. He has the mentality for the big occasion, he is confident with the ball.” He continued, “we have decided how the team is going to play, we need to look for players who play our way.”
Tomorrow’s match will be the Stoke midfielder’s competitive debut, and when Trapattoni was asked if there is a possibility of Lawrence shying away from the test, he responded, “no, sometimes players go red, this is a sign of shyness, but Lawrence is up to the test”.
Lawrence’s inclusion will come as a surprise as Stephen Hunt, a favoured player of Trapattoni, is fully fit and available to play. Trapattoni spoke of the reasons he has been picked ahead of the other options, naming his performance against South Africa and his delivery from the set-piece as key factors.
There is also the possibility that Lawrence’s inclusion could be a move to counter act the presence of Fabio Grosso on the Italian left wing. The Juventus left-back has been in good form since the start of the season, and is a huge threat down the Irish right hand side.
Trapattoni was met with an even more multilingual press conference than normal today. The Italian journalists present only had one topic on their mind following the reports which emerged on Thursday that the Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro has failed a dope test.
Responding to the situation and whether he feels that this can upset the Italian’s preparation, Trapatoni said “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a specialist, it is not up to me to decide.” Talking of the affect the captain’s absence could have on Italy, Trapattoni believed “that in Italy there is a habit against pressure, we are used to it. They will be coming here without fear.”
Exuberant Italian reporters went on further to quiz the Ireland manager on the absence of Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano from the Italian squad and the possible return of AS Roma captain Francesco Totti before the start of the World Cup finals next June. Trapattoni talked of having similar problems during his tenure as Italian manager with relation to team selection. “I’m letting Lippi deal with his own problems, I had my own in my own time. I had the [Roberto] Baggio issue. This is what it is like in Italy.”
In typical light-hearted Italian banter with the manager, Trapattoni was asked about an advertisement in an Irish publication that depicted a ‘Godfather’ like Italian stereotypical image and if this is how Italians are perceived in Ireland. Straight to the point, he replied “No, I’m not mafioso,” adding, “we Irish are tough and get our heads out of the water independently whatever people think of us.”
To finish the press conference, Trapattoni gave a very philosophical answer regarding his desire to see his native country lose. Looking the reporter in the eye he replied, “Do you have a friend? Do you play cards? Do you want to win or do you want to lose?”
With the Italians arriving in Dublin this evening and holding their press conference after their team walk of Croke Park, there are voices of concern in the Italian press that they are leaving themselves little time to acclimatise. However, when Marcello Lippi faces the media, it would be hard to imagine that he will be bombarded with the same amount of questions regarding Andy Reid as Trapattoni was in relation to Cassano, Totti and Cannavaro.
Ireland Team v Italy: Shay Given, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Kevin Kilbane, Liam Lawrence, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Aiden McGeady, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle.