Mental battle key for Ireland says Trapattoni

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The Independent Football

Giovanni Trapattoni is hoping to win the psychological battle as he attempts to guide his side to World Cup play-off victory over France.

The Italian came within minutes of claiming a famous victory over his native country at Croke Park last month when defender Sean St Ledger headed them into the lead with just three minutes remaining at Croke Park.

However, substitute Alberto Gilardino snatched a point for the reigning world champions as Marcello Lippi's men hit back in devastating style to claim top spot in Group Eight and take the pressure off in their final qualifier against Cyprus.

Now Trapattoni is urging his players to learn the lessons of that last-gasp disappointment to help steel themselves for the two-legged clash with France.

The 70-year-old said: "The psychological situation is important in important games - 10 seconds against Italy could have changed the situation.

"Okay, I expected Italy to beat Cyprus, but we drew the game and but for four or five minutes at the end, we could have won it.

"But football is like that."

Trapattoni put his players - midfielder Liam Miller was last night undergoing a scan on a calf injury which could rule him out - through their paces at their training base in Malahide yesterday afternoon confident that they can make life intensely difficult for the French.

Raymond Domenech's side, like the Irish, finished second in their group; unlike the Republic, they were not unbeaten, and that is a source of encouragement for Trapattoni.

He said: "I'm not afraid about this team. I know the quality of the France players, but our players at their clubs play against Arsenal, against Manchester United.

"France achieved second place in the group like us and we were one of only five unbeaten teams.

"We have a few creative players - maybe France have more and other teams have more still.

"But football is concrete. We are not a theatre, La Scala or Madison Square Garden; it's football.

"Football is ball, pitch, opponent and mentality, that's football.

"Results are results, a show is a show and results are different to the show. That is our belief."

Domenech will arrive in Dublin later this week under intense pressure and having been ridiculed for his belief in astrology - not a route his managerial opponent will travel as he decides on his team for Saturday's first leg at Croke Park.

Trapattoni said: "In the past, some managers have gone to tarot readers. But I am a believer and I believe in other things.

"He has his habits and I have my habits.

"Help yourself and God will help you as well. But I'm not God, I'm not St Patrick, I'm human."