Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Tardelli confident over Dunne

Richard Dunne, left, has not played a competitive fixture for Ireland since Euro 2012

Marco Tardelli is confident Richard Dunne could play against both Sweden and Austria if required as he prepares to return to competitive international football.

The 33-year-old central defender managed 25 minutes for his country in the 4-0 friendly defeat of Georgia in June, his only football at the end of a season which was decimated by injury.

He has not played a competitive game for Ireland since the 2-0 defeat by Italy at the Euro 2012 finals, but having demonstrated his return to fitness at new club QPR, he is ready to return to pull on the green jersey once again.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has already indicated Dunne could start Friday night's World Cup qualifier against the Swedes at the Aviva Stadium, and now his assistant Tardelli has revealed he believes the former Manchester City powerhouse could repeat the feat in Vienna four days later if he was needed.

Tardelli said: "I think so, but we have many options in this squad. If Richard is fit, I think he can play two matches.

"Richard is very important for us because he's a good player. He is very strong physically and against [Sweden striker Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, you need physically strong players."

Much of the talk around the Ireland camp this week has been of Paris St-Germain striker Ibrahimovic and his potential to wreck Ireland's hopes.

Indeed, Tardelli admitted he was "scared" of a player who has proved capable in the past of effectively winning matches on his own.

However, Trapattoni's number two insists there will be no special strategy to deal with Ibrahimovic, simply because it is impossible to predict the unpredictable.

Asked if there was a plan, Tardelli said with a smile: "Yes - the back four must control him always because he is their best player.

"There isn't a special plan because he is a very strong player. It's like trying to prepare something for [Cristiano] Ronaldo - Ronaldo decides what he wants to do.

"Focus on the match, focus on Ibrahimovic, it's okay. But when he decides to do something, it's impossible to control him."

Trapattoni will finalise his blueprint on Thursday, and several questions remain unanswered.

Left-back Marc Wilson trained for the first time with his team-mates on Wednesday morning after shaking off an ankle problem, although it remains to be seen whether he is fit enough to start against the Swedes with Ciaran Clark having been mentioned in dispatches as a possible replacement.

Perhaps even more uncertain is who will line up on the left side of midfield with usual incumbent Aiden McGeady ruled out by injury.

Striker Jon Walters is a candidate for the wide right berth and in the circumstances, it seems unlikely that fellow frontman Simon Cox would get the nod on the left.

Wigan winger James McClean is a natural replacement for McGeady, but Anthony Pilkington's versatility means he too could come into consideration.

The Norwich midfielder trained in the gym on Wednesday as he continued to manage a long-standing knee problem, but asked if it was beyond the realms of possibility that he could be handed a debut on Friday night, Tardelli did not rule it out.

He said: "No, many players have played for the first time in an important match. He's a professional player and he could play for the first time."

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