Will Giovanni Trapattoni's experience help Republic of Ireland in Poland & Ukraine?



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Giovanni Trapattoni is the oldest of the sixteen coaches taking teams to Euro 2012 this summer- will his guidance and know-how help the Irish to pull off one of the greatest shocks in Euro history?


Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane knows the tactical nouse of their 73-year old coach Giovanni Trapattoni is required to help the team survive a tough Euro 2012 group.

The Republic start against Croatia in Poznan on Sunday night before facing holders and world champions Spain, and then Italy- who won the 2006 World Cup. A undoubtedly tough baptism for a group of players experiencing this grandeur for the first time in their footballing careers and a nation who last travelled to the European Championship finals back in 1988.

Keane believes that Italian coach Trapattoni- who has a coaching bank expanding to the 1970s when he started out as boss of AC Milan- knows exactly what they need to do because "he's been in the game a long time and has won a lot of trophies". The man, who spent time on loan at Aston Villa during the 2011-12 season to regain his fitness levels ahead of the MLS season, thrives on the fact that they have low expectations in the tournament and they are clearly underdogs in terms of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Keane, the Republic's all-time leading goalscorer with 53 goals from 117 appearances so far for his country, has played alongside three members of the Croatia squad: Spurs trio Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, during his time at White Hart Lane.

He said of playmaker Modric: "He's a fantastic player - he makes them tick. It's the same with Tottenham. Every time he's on the ball he makes things happen, he makes the players around him better when he's on form."

Now 32 years old and playing for LA Galaxy in the United States, Keane is one of eight players in the Republic of Ireland squad who are over the age of 30. The experience of these lads is going to be absolutely vital to help the younger players such as McClean to fit in and show them the ropes if you like- the spirit must be good and positive in the camp and they cannot wait to take to the pitch in Poznan. The squad contains two or three really outstanding players who maybe in their thirties in terms of age but still show on a weekly basis for their clubs what they can still do. Trapattoni will be hoping these players can step upto the plate during the tournament.

The former Liverpool forward Keane added: "By no means are we thinking it is going to be easy. It is going to be tough, but this could be probably the last chance for many players, so we have to grasp that with both hands."

Keane can be seen now as a relative veteran stating that the entire squad were galvanised by the hugely controversial World Cup qualifying match in Paris in November 2009 when a Thierry Henry handball led to the goal that eliminated the Irish from the competition. He said: "The players realised how close we were to a major tournament, and so to have that taken away from you, in the incident that we obviously all know about, it is hard to take. We could have easily crumbled the next campaign, but we stuck together, we worked hard and we certainly became a better side for it."

I thought that their chances of ever reaching a tournament again were slim after that moment but the lads have shown tremendous character to keep their chins up and heads held high after that moment which had many of them in tears on the pitch at the end of the game in the French capital. They were truly outstanding in their attitude during the qualification campaign and fully deserve their place among the sixteen teams at Euro 2012. Many are writing them off even before they have boarded the plane- includin me. If the draw for the group stages had been a little kinder to them, then I would be backing them. But Spain, Italy and Croatia will surely have more than them.

Asked about his working relationship with his national coach, Keane explained: "The two of us can be quite fiery sometimes. I am usually quite laid back, but if something needs to be said, I will say it straight away. And I think the manager is very similar in that respect."

Keane also thinks that the team has another advantage over rival nations through the magnificent support they will gratefully receive from their vociferous fans who have made the mileage trip to Poland & Ukraine. If the match against Bosnia was anything to go by, then the players are in for a treat because the support was terrific with 35,000 turning out in Dublin just for a friendly game.

"If you ask any supporter outside of Ireland, they always want the Irish supporters there, because they are always in good spirit, and they always have good fun. That's very important for the players. The players always talk about the fans, and they're not just saying that lightly, they genuinely mean that. They've been fantastic over the years."  


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