Giovanni Trapattoni backs Republic of Ireland spirit over flair ahead of Sweden test


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The Independent Football

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is convinced his team's strong spirit makes up for their lack of individual flair.

Trapattoni is backing his side to deliver as he sends them into a crucial World Cup qualifier in Sweden tonight.

Despite only being the fourth game of the Group C campaign, defeat in freezing Stockholm would leave the Irish facing an uphill struggle to catch Germany and Sweden at the top of the standings.

Trapattoni said: "We are not great individual players like (Lionel) Messi or, with Sweden, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic.

"But we are a good team with good balance, good attitude.

"We have no creative (Cristiano) Ronaldo or (Lionel) Messi, or other stars, but we are a good team. I am confident for this.

"Every day when I see the team in training I am happy for my side. We play quick and with confidence."

Trapattoni's major team selection decision has seen him opt for the solidity of Leeds midfielder Paul Green - despite a lack of popularity with fans and pundits - in the centre alongside Glenn Whelan.

Wigan's James McCarthy misses out but Trapattoni feels Green's presence will offer the best balance as he implores full-backs Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson, as well as wingers Robbie Brady and James McClean, to attack.

Trapattoni, who compared Green to Gennaro Gattuso and Nobby Stiles, said: "We have to think about the balance. I can also change after I see how the game develops."

Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark will partner John O'Shea in central defence despite the return of Sean St Ledger to the squad after injury.

Millwall goalkeeper David Forde will make his competitive debut while Shane Long will start up front alongside captain and record goalscorer Robbie Keane, whose role will be slightly withdrawn.

Trapattoni said: "The next match will obviously be very important for our qualification.

"It will be important to keep in mind there is only one point between us and Sweden in our pool.

"As always every little detail is important to achieve the result.

"Against these strong teams character, technical (ability) and attitude are important."

While Germany face Kazakhstan in a double-header over the next week, Ireland return to Dublin to play Austria on Tuesday.

Keane believes the coming days could be pivotal to the campaign.

The 32-year-old, who will win his 123rd cap and will be aiming to add to his tally of 54 international goals, said: "It is vitally important by Wednesday that we have four to six points.

"They (Sweden) are a point ahead of us and if we lose it is certainly going to be tough.

"It is very important we get something out of these two games."

With temperatures of minus nine degrees forecast in the Swedish capital during the evening, the match is set to be played under the retractable roof despite Trapattoni's preference for it to be left open.

But the 74-year-old said: "We have to play 90 minutes with it closed or open."