REPUBLIC OF IRELAND boss Giovanni Trapattoni will look to his experienced players to keep a cool head and lead by example as his side try to relaunch their Euro 2012 qualification campaign with a win over Macedonia.
Attidude, confidence and belief – words repeated time and time again by the manager at this afternoon’s pre-match press conference.
He may not have been at the helm for the debacles of 1997 and 1999, but he is acutely aware that Ireland might not have it all their own way in the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening.
“We must believe in how we play,” Trapattoni stresses and one gets the sense that this positive mentality underpins the selection of old hands such as Kevin Kilbane who will make his 65th consecutive competitive appearance for the Irish side.
The inclusion of the Huddersfield stalwart wasn’t the only selection to raise a few eyebrows. In fact, the same can be said for much of the back four which sees Wolves defender Kevin Foley recalled for his first competitive cap and Ipswich Town’s Darren O’Dea given the nod at centre-half at the expense of Ciaran Clark.
Explaining the decision which had been forced on him by Sean St. Ledger’s knee injury earlier this week, Trapattoni noted that O’Dea was slightly more experienced in the position, a factor which appears to have tipped the balance in his favour.
I have been following Clark closely at Aston Villa. His manager has decided that he is a better player at left-back, not centre-half.
Centre-half is O’Dea’s natural position. We need experience in this position and, of the two, O’Dea is the more experienced.
Aside from all the pyschological talk of attitude and mentality, Trapattoni is the first to admit that the result is the most important. With Macedonia likely to try to stifle and frustrate his team’s advances, the Italian has clearly picked the starting eleven which he feels will best be able to cope with the deep defensive line which tomorrow’s opponents will employ.
“Macedonia don’t leave much space on the pitch,” Trapattoni explained when asked why he had favoured Manchester United’s Darron Gibson over Paul Green who has started all of the side’s qualifiers to date.
Against a more creative and technical opponent, maybe I’d need someone more like Paul Green, but tomorrow we’re hoping to be able to play around their box a lot.
We need players like Gibson and McGeady who will control the ball and take shots on.
If there is one area that the Irish boss is slightly concerned about, it is the powerful aerial presence of tomorrow evening’s opponents whose height will offer them plenty of opportunities from corners and set pieces.
However, he is more than happy that stand-in netminder Kieran Westwood will be able to handle the threat on his first competitive experience.
I trust him, I have confidence in him.
He has a good personality and a good attitude which is important against tall opposition.
If Westwood, Gibson et al. can vindicate their manager’s belief in their abilities, Ireland might just avoid resurrecting the ghosts of Skopje.
Republic of Ireland (vs Macedonia): Kieran Westwood; Kevin Foley, Richard Dunne, Darren O’Dea, Kevin Kilbane; Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Darron Gibson, Aidan McGeady; Robbie Keane (c), Kevin Doyle.