Republic homing in on away day draw
Giovanni Trapattoni never forgets. He cannot look ahead to next Monday's play-off draw without reference to superstition borne from bitter experience.
To understand his desire to make it to next summer's World Cup, you have to understand the pain which his last appearance in that arena caused the 70-year-old.
Back in 2002, his Italy side departed in controversial circumstances to co-hosts Korea. Trapattoni reflected on that saga yesterday, dropping the name of Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno into discussion. Moreno wrongly sent off Francesco Totti for diving, disallowed an Italian goal and awarded a dubious penalty to Korea, who duly progressed to the quarter-finals at the Azzurri's expense.
Trapattoni has gone on record to admit he will never forget those decisions for as long as he lives and it's for that reason that he would prefer Ireland to be drawn away from home first when the balls enter the drum in Switzerland. His gut feeling is that strange things could happen if the decider took place on foreign soil.
“When Japan went out the day before, I knew we were in trouble,” said Trapattoni, with a wry smile as he reflected on the pain of seven years ago.
The topic cropped up in the context of next Monday when the Italian said that Guus Hiddink — now manager of Russia, and then boss of Korea — is the only manager of the four seeded teams that he has ever encountered. Carlos Queiroz (Portugal) Otto Rehhagel (Greece) and Raymond Domenech (France) have yet to cross his radar.
“In Italy, there is a saying that there's no point in making excuses before something happens so let's wait and see,” he said.
“I would like to play away first because I know that things can happen for the team that’s at home second.”