Trapattoni: We can confront Germany
Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland prepare to enter a brave new world with their manager still extolling the virtues which have characterised his reign to date.
For the first time since Ireland travelled to Turkey in November 1999, they will start a competitive match against Germany on Friday night without either Shay Given or Damien Duff, who have retired from international football, or Richard Dunne and 54-goal striker Robbie Keane.
However, Trapattoni's message to his players ahead of the Group C encounter was: "I will be proud if we can win or draw because I have studied particularly what Germany have tried to do, and we must do what we can to contain them."
He added: "They have the quality of [Thomas] Muller, [Mesut] Ozil, [Miroslav] Klose, [Mario] Gomez, [Mario] Gotze, [Lukas] Podolski - unfortunately, we don't have that kind of player. But we have our qualities and with our qualities, we can confront Germany."
Keane joined an injury list which has claimed five members of what is widely considered to be Trapattoni's strongest team. It felt like something of a watershed moment as Trapattoni announced his team, which did not include the names of any of the quartet of senior men who have been the backbone of Ireland's team for over a decade.
There could be a significant shift too in terms of system with the manager initially naming his line-up, which included Everton's Seamus Coleman at right-back for the first time in a competitive game in a 4-3-3 formation.
But he then muddied the waters, saying: "I have not changed the system. I said we can play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. We have to see what happens in the game. We can change, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. I have to be sure that the system is available and that I can change immediately if I need to."
Whether or not Trapattoni had come to the conclusion that change was required of his own volition, or whether he had simply been beaten into submission by repeated reminders of his side's submission to the likes of Russia, Spain and Italy in recent years, was a moot point.
But at the end of a week during which rumours linking him with the vacant manager's job at Blackburn led to speculation over his continued presence in his current post, the 73-year-old cut a defiant figure.
He said: "In the last three years with Ireland, we are proud of what we have done. Without France, we could have been at the World Cup. But now we have changed the team and brought in younger players - this team is very, very young. Three years ago, our ranking was far away from where it is now. We have improved."