Greece is word as Trapattoni crosses fingers

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The Independent Online

The Republic of Ireland will learn their World Cup play-off opponents shortly after lunchtime today when the draw takes place in Switzerland.

Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic's coach, will be at home in Italy waiting for the news after superstitiously deciding not to make the journey to Zurich. Like every Irish football fan, he's had enough time to digest the best- and worst-case scenarios for the two-legged play-offs, which take place next month. The strengths of the seeded sides in the draw, Portugal, Russia, Greece and France have been well flagged and while Trapattoni has refused to state a preference, it's safe to assume from the words of his assistant Marco Tardelli that an uninspiring Greece side would be the optimum result.

The surprise winners of the 2004 European Championships sealed their place in the play-offs with a 2-1 victory over Luxembourg in the final round. Having made a strong start to qualifying they finished second behind Switzerland, despite being in a weak group. The delegations from the other unseeded countries, Slovenia, Bosnia and Ukraine, will be thinking in similar terms as the Irish.

After drawing against Italy and Montenegro in their final pair of qualifiers last week, Trapattoni said: "They speak about which team we prefer, is it France, or Greece, or Russia, or Portugal? But the draw is the draw. Now, after the game with Italy, and also the game in Bari, we can play against every opponent."

"Our mentality and our discipline in the first 20 minutes against Italy at Croke Park was huge," he added. "We needed this game to increase our belief in this situation, and with that kind of performance we can achieve anything."

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