- Euro 2012
Trapattoni: Mistakes a 'huge concern'
Giovanni Trapattoni has warned his Republic of Ireland players to expect the unexpected as they attempt to kick off their Euro 2012 campaign with victory over Croatia.
The Group C rivals will meet in Poznan knowing three points would give the winners a foothold ahead of tough clashes with Spain and Italy. Trapattoni, as ever, has prepared his players with a forensic attention to detail, but he knows all his best-laid plans could be ripped apart by the kind of error it has been his mission to eradicate during his four years at the helm.
The 73-year-old said: "Twenty-four hours before the match, the atmosphere is always the same. It doesn't change whether it's the championship or the league. Twenty years ago, we prepared the same whether it was the UEFA Cup or the last match in the Italian league, it was the same.
"The most important thing is what you feel. We all expect victory, of course, but the question is whether you can avoid mistakes. That is a huge concern because in each match, you want to avoid mistakes. This is something unpredictable and something unpredictable can happen in each match.
"You can prepare for a match in the best way you can, but I always watch matches and I prepare very well, and then there are unpredictable situations. In each circumstance, the Irish nation is confident about this team. They fully believe in us. We are really confident, but we have to be aware of that unpredictability.''
The game will see Ireland return to the European Championship for the first time since 1988, a 24-year wait which was ended by a 5-1 aggregate play-off victory over Estonia. That in itself represented a triumph for Trapattoni and his expensively-assembled regime with the Republic, having missed out on major tournament finals for a decade. However, now that they are in Poland, he has no intention of playing the role of tourist.
He said: "First of all, I have to say that each goal I am about to reach is always a challenge, and this is now similar for the national team. This has been the same through all my career. I have the same determination and the same concentration and the same attention to detail.
"I am really, really grateful to the Irish people because they believe in our project. From the World Cup, I don't want to talk about France v Ireland, but today as we are here in Poland, we have really given them [the Irish people] an important satisfaction.
"For me and for [assistant manager] Marco Tardelli, we have given Irish people that Ireland has asked for. I have said already last week, 'Never say never'. Of course, the final result depends on the players, their creativity and their talent. That's why you have to believe in it. We got here because we were fully determined to get through qualification.''
Slaven Bilic's Croatia side will provide a stern test of the Republic's credentials with the two teams having drawn in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium in August last year, and Trapattoni knows how crucial the opening fixture could prove to be.
He said: "Of course, the first match is critical. If you win the first match, you get momentum and enthusiasm and in this way you can avoid criticism and you are still confident and maybe you can reach your goal.''
With reigning world and European champions Spain up second for Ireland in Gdansk on Thursday evening, Trapattoni is acutely aware that the clash with his native country back in Poznan on the following Monday could prove key.
However, he is refusing even to contemplate that just yet. He said: "I normally think about what is going on now, not what is going to go on later. Today, this game will be my only thought. I don't know if the last match against Italy will be decisive. I don't know how the table will look, so it is pretty hard to predict what is going to happen in the match against Italy.
"If the last match is decisive to get through the group, that means we will all have the chance to go through, and that means a lot will depend on us and not on other teams, so there will be a lot at stake.''
Having come through their final training session in Gdynia unscathed, the Republic will start with their strongest possible line-up, and that means keeper Shay Given and defender John O'Shea have proven their fitness.