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Let's be competitive: Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni played the diplomat as he and his Ireland players were honoured at a civic reception in Montecatini.

The 73-year-old, who was welcomed to the Tuscan spa town's Stabilimento Tettuccio by the current Miss Italy Stefania Bivone, will lead his adopted nation into Euro 2012 battle against his native country in the final round of games in Group C next month.

But he told an audience of local dignitaries, including Irish ambassador Patrick Hennessy, and invited guests he would be making no predictions as to the result: "I'm not going to say let the better team win. I'm just going to say, 'Let's be competitive'."

Trapattoni continued: "Italians must be very jealous because there's a town in Italy that has been painted in green and even Miss Italy, who is the symbol of Italy, is actually here on the side of the Irish.

"I often compare the Irish and Ireland to the town where I grew up. I always give merits whoever deserves them."

Montecatini has laid on a warm welcome for their visitors with many shops decked out in their colours for what has been declared 'Irish Week'.

The Italians are also preparing for the tournament in Tuscany, where their Coverciano base was visited by police investigating new allegations of match-fixing.

Trapattoni chose Montecatini having used the facilities on several occasions in the past, but admitted he did not expect to have his former player Cesare Prandelli's side so close by.

He said: "We chose Montecatini not knowing Italy would be next-door, but we will continue to focus on our work because we think we can be very competitive and play against any team."

Trapattoni was born on St Patrick's Day, although he told guests even he cannot rely on divine intervention. He said: "When John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, came to me, I asked him if he chose me because I was born on St Patrick's Day. I told him straight away, 'I don't do miracles - only the players can do miracles'."

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