Ireland ready to surprise Italy, claims Trapattoni

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The Independent Online

Giovanni Trapattoni is confident the Republic of Ireland can make a real fist of toppling reigning champions Italy from the top of their World Cup qualifying group. Trapattoni's native country currently heads Group Eight with 10 points from a possible 12 after a 0-0 draw in Bulgaria and a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Cyprus on a day when they might have lost.

Ireland, who have played one game fewer, trail Italy by three points, and will go level if they can beat Georgia at Croke Park in February before travelling to meet the Azzurri on 1 April. Asked if he believed his side could edge themselves ahead of the favourites, Trapattoni said: "Why not? Italy have a very difficult situation. They have players injured and some are not at their best – they normally have 35 or 40 to choose from. I have seen their games against Cyprus and Bulgaria and they are a strong team when all their players are fit. There is not a big difference between big teams and smaller teams. If we win against Georgia, we will be level with Italy."

Trapattoni will send his side out in tonight's friendly with Poland with qualification very much in mind as he bloods a new generation of players. The Hull City striker Caleb Folan will deputise for the injured captain Robbie Keane, while there will be another start for the Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson and also a place for Andy Keogh of Wolverhampton.

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