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Tardelli: Don't switch off

Marco Tardelli has warned Ireland not to underestimate Andorra as they attempt to snatch automatic qualification for Euro 2012.

Ireland head into their final two Group B games, against the Andorrans on Friday night in the Pyrenees and next Tuesday's home clash with Armenia, knowing two victories would edge them ahead of current leaders Russia should they slip to defeat in Slovakia.

Assistant manager Tardelli said: "Psychologically, it is very important. When players think the match is very easy, that's when the difficulties start. Andorra are a good team, a strong team physically, and also the pitch is not very good. It is bumpy and it could be a problem. But we are a good team."

Having disposed of Andorra relatively comfortably in September last year, when a 3-1 win at the Aviva Stadium cemented a perfect start to the campaign, Ireland will fly out from Dublin on Wednesday overwhelming favourites to return with another three points.

Andorra are yet to take a point from their eight games to date and have scored just one goal, Cristian Martinez's strike in Dublin.

The group could hardly be any more finely poised, with the top four teams all having a mathematical chance of emerging from it.

Russia enjoy a two-point advantage over second-placed Ireland, while Slovakia and Armenia are only a further point back. However, the Russians lost 1-0 to Slovakia in Moscow the night Ireland were disposing of Andorra, and a repeat in Zilina on Friday evening would blow the race wide open once again.

That said, a draw or a win for the Russians would sent them into their final game against Andorra at home knowing a seemingly regulation victory would leave them in an unassailable position whatever happens elsewhere.

At the very worst, two wins would secure a play-off berth for Giovanni Trapattoni's men, although they could be forgiven for wanting to avoid that lottery after their controversial World Cup exit at the hands - literally, in the case of Thierry Henry - of France two years ago.

Asked if he believes Slovakia could do Ireland a favour by beating Russia, Tardelli replied: "It's possible - they beat them in Russia, so it's possible."


From Belfast Telegraph