The draw for Euro 2012 takes place on Friday with the Republic of Ireland taking pride of place in the hat in Kiev. Ten long years we’ve waited to return to the world stage. Twenty-four years on from Stuttgart, Trap has led us back among the continent’s elite. But he doesn’t want Poland, Ukraine, Italy, or England.
Scarred by his experience against the host nation in South Korea in 2002, Giovanni Trappattoni has expressed reservations about drawing either Poland or Ukraine in the draw at Kiev’s Palace of Arts.
Ireland’s heart-break in Paris, coupled with UEFA’s last minute decision to seed those play-offs and Sepp Blatter’s subsequent embarrassing behaviour, have done nothing to quell Trap’s conspiracy theories.
In addition, the 72-year-old has said the emotion of facing Italy again, this time in a major finals, would be too much to bear.
During the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign, Ireland twice drew with his homeland and were perhaps worthy of more.
Earlier this year, a third-string Irish outfit inflicted a shock defeat on a strong Italian team in a friendly in Belgium but Trap, who cried tears of joy after Ireland’s win in Tallinn, has said facing the Azzurri at the Euros would be too much.
Irish fans are relishing a pop at England with the consensus being that the players’ familiarity with one another would give us a fighting chance. Last weekend, journalist Henry Winter said England have no desire to take on the Republic at the finals next summer given the intensity of the match.
Were we to be drawn together on Friday, it would scupper the talk of a friendly in Dublin early next year meaning a game in the cauldron of the European Championships would be the first meeting between the nations since the Lansdowne Road riots.
In addition, of course, the last the time we played England at a major finals we drew 1-1 in Sardinia at Italia ’90. We scarcely need reminding that our first ever encounter, at Euro ’88, ended with a 1-0 win for Ireland. All this would be dredged up again should the sides be paired with each other on Friday.
Giovanni Trapattoni has no desire for that to happen citing the nations’ history as another issue but the rugby tie at Croke Park has gone some way to thawing any frosty sporting relations.
Coupled with the transformation of England’s away support and the weeding out of the hooligan element, any meeting between the sides would be sure to be a fantastic occasion. For certain, the host cities are praying they draw England or Ireland as they would be set for a financial windfall.
Interestingly, on a poll on the official England Facebook page, Ireland are the runaway leaders of teams their supporters would like to face. Yet, you get the feeling the English want the game for the same reason we do, the spectacle of the clash of the near neighbours.
Presumably, Trap would rather not draw the Russians again either as we were fortunate to garner even a point from them during qualifying. We are running out of favoured opponents for the manager.
Trapattoni and his players have mentioned Greece’s 2004 triumph as their inspiration going into the tournament next summer. Revisionists derided the Greeks style of play in Portugal, drawing comparisons with critics of Trap’s style. Yet, the Republic supremo and his charges will scarcely care. They are fired up for Friday’s draw.
While having to face Spain, Germany or Holland would immediately dampen hopes , it would soon give way to the old Irish trait of wanting to give it a lash.
As we have seen from each of our previous appearances at major tournaments, the Irish at a finals are a different animal and we don’t stop fighting until the last minute.
We should also note that Ireland have never failed to progress to the second round. Come Friday, every other country will be aware of this should they draw the Boys in Green. And our lads will be out to repeat history while making some of their own.