Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni likened Wednesday’s clash against world champions Italy here to the biblical combat between David and Goliath.
The Irish come into the match second in group eight, just two points behind Italy but considered to be overwhelming underdogs.
However, Trapattoni is largely considered to be the greatest Italian coach of all time and his presence alone on the Irish bench has put doubt in the Italians’ minds.
Such is his reputation here that he was given a round of applause on Tuesday as he entered the pre-match press conference.
“At home you applaud when you win and not before,” he joked. “We could have come to Italy with the same points (as Italy) and we would have been happy with that and only that own goal (by Kevin Kilbane in a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria on Saturday) made the difference.
“At the begining of the season I thought we could do well but not as well as this because this is a tough group.
“But now we must think about climbing higher. Sometimes in Italy we think about the legend of David and Goliath. We are David and Italy are Goliath.
“Legends remain legends but I have a lot of trust and belief in my team. We have to believe in everything we’ve done so far, we still have five matches to go before the end of qualification and one of most important matches is going to be tomorrow’s.”
Trapattoni may be 70 years old and he has not coached in Italy for several years having spent recent years coaching in Germany, Austria, Portugal and now Ireland, but his philosophy has never changed.
For him the result has always been and always will be more important than the performance.
“Your analyses last for four or five days and after that they are forgotten but what remains is the result,” he told journalists.
“You can’t go out to play beautiful football. If you want a show go to the theatre but if you want a result come to watch football.”
Trapattoni revealed that he had plenty of other offers before taking up this post with the Irish Football Association last year.
“I had two or three chances to chose other teams,” he said. “I already knew (captain Robbie) Keane and I knew Liam Brady (who played for Trapp at Juventus).
“I chose this team for the (Irish) people. I have no doubt the Irish will get on very well with the Italians. There are a number of Italians living in Dublin and living very well.”
For Keane this will be a special match as he is coming up against former coach Marcello Lippi, who signed him at Inter Milan back in 2000 before being fired only weeks later.
Even so, the Tottenham captain was impressed with what he saw of Lippi in the short time they worked together.
“It was only a few months that I did get to work with him but I could see how good he was with his experience over many years and as a man as well,” he said.
“He always looked after you, I wish it could have been longer but it wasn’t.”
Now Keane is confident the Irish spirit can help his new boss get one over his former one.
“Ireland in the past have gone up against so called better teams but we’ve always seemed to do a lot better than we should over the years,” he said.
“I’ve been chatting to the boys and we’ve got nothing to lose, people expect us to lose anyway so we’re just going to go out and enjoy ourselves.”
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