Irish urged to forget about Italy – for now

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The Independent Football

Giovanni Trapattoni has told his Irish players yesterday to concentrate on securing second place in their World Cup qualifying group before thinking about toppling the favourites Italy. Ireland took four points from their opening matches with Georgia and Montenegro, and there is now optimism in the camp that qualification for South Africa in 2010 is possible.

The winners of Group Eight will make it there automatically, while the second-placed team would enter a play-off with a runner-up from another group. Trapattoni believes that – for the moment – his players need to ensure they finish ahead of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Montenegro and Georgia.

Ireland now have a run of home games, starting with Cyprus next month, Georgia in February and Bulgaria in March before their first meeting with Italy on 1 April.

"At the moment, we cannot look to Italy, we have to look to Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia. For now, we can wish Italy wins every game. I wish them well now, so we can get ahead of the others. From the next three games for us, I think to win all of them would be a dream. Maybe with the group seven points would be enough. But then the games are at home and maybe it's possible to look to win all these games and then have many points before we go to Italy. It's important that we have the same squad of players fit. We cannot have too many changes."

Trapattoni explained his thinking for making no substitutions in Podgorica, saying he felt the situation was too tight. One of his possible changes involved Andy Reid replacing either Robbie Keane or Kevin Doyle. However, he felt that one less body up front might result in the loss of possession there, thus pushing Ireland back deeper into their own half.