Belfast Telegraph

Republic will not get drawn into trap

By Ian Parkes

Giovanni Trapattoni will use tonight's crucial Euro 2012 showdown with Armenia as a test of how his Republic of Ireland team have matured.

The Italian will send his troops, minus injured skipper Robbie Keane, into battle at the Aviva Stadium knowing a point will assure them of a play-off berth, but equally aware that defeat would end their hopes of making next summer's finals.

Trapattoni, whose conservatism has not enamoured him to every Ireland supporter during his three-and-a-half-year reign to date, insists he will go out to win the game.

However, he has urged his players not to be caught up in the frenzy from the stands as the nation hopes for some good news after their Rugby World Cup hopes were shattered at the weekend.

Trapattoni, who remembers only too well the late equaliser the Republic conceded to his native Italy when they were on the brink of a famous World Cup qualifier victory, said: “Our fans are very important, but we must not think about ‘Go, go, go!' to score a goal.

“In the past we have tried to score a goal, not scored a goal and conceded on the counter-attack.

“This is a test of or maturity. With maturity, we will look to win, but we have to think always about not conceding a goal.

“When I came here, I saw a DVD of the Irish team which was leading and attacked with eight players.

“It was the same when I was at Benfica, the people shouting ‘Go, go, go!' and there were 18 players in the final 30 metres of the pitch.

“That means 80 metres of the ground is free and that is very, very dangerous.

“We must do what we want to do, that's maturity. For our team, for our players, this is a good test to show that with this maturity, we can achieve the result we want.

“All that matters is the result.”

That result must be achieved without Keane, whose adductor

muscle injury could sideline him for four weeks, meaning he would have little time to get himself match-fit for any play-off.

Assistant boss Marco Tardelli insisted the 31-year-old was being given every chance to prove his fitness yesterday, but Keane's presence in a Malahide bar on Sunday night told its own story.

Trapattoni said: “I was a liar. Robbie was out and was free to go home with his friends or go to the pub.

“I didn't want the opponents to know whether he would play or not.”

Keane, who will undergo a series of injections to address the problem, will be replaced in the starting line-up by West Brom's Simon Cox, who has got the nod ahead of club-mate Shane Long and Stoke's Jonathan Walters.

Goalkeeper Shay Given will captain the side and knows a ninth successive clean sheet will deliver the necessary point.

He said: “We look solid, but what has happened in the previous eight or nine games doesn't really matter, it's what happens tonight that matters.

“We know if we keep a clean sheet, then we are in the play-offs.

“Hopefully, we can do that, but the games in the past count for nothing. It's a new game, it's all about keeping your focus and making the right decisions on the night.”

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