Trapattoni's Irish mission driven by Italy's disgrace

Republic manager prepares for last hurrah amid turmoil in his home country

Giovanni Trapattoni balks at the question. "No. Never," he says sternly. "They know me. And my mentality." The subject is whether he's ever been approached about fixing a match. And, in the context of the last week in Italian football, it's an eminently fair question. For Trapattoni, though, it's also a very personal issue.

When he immediately respondedto the news of Italy's latest scandal on Tuesday morning, the Irish manager sounded devastated. "This situation humiliates us. And it humiliates me. We are sad and disappointed because not all Italian football is like this. We don't have a good reputation and it's important it is cleaned up."

Trapattoni initially gave his views when he was doorstepped by Italian journalists at Ireland's own hotel in Montecatini first thing that morning. Such incidents have borne out misgivings about situating the Irish team's pre-Euro 2012 base in the manager's native country and so near to their group-stage opponents – the Italians themselves – no matter how ideal the conditions.

The tragic earthquake in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region – which shook the Irish hotel too – also put the week into context. Nevertheless, in purely football terms, Trapattoni insists it was a productive seven days for his squad. "There has been a very good atmosphere this week. There were a few doubts 10 days ago. Now, nothing."

And, in the grander narrative of the manager's own career, it's difficult to deny there's a sense of destiny about this final venue.

As Trapattoni approaches his mid-70s and, quite possibly, his last major campaign in football, both the site of Montecatini and the tournament itself tie together many strands of his career.

For one thing, Trapattoni senses the anxiety around the Italian arrests more acutely precisely because he was in his native country with his new team. But that does not mean his opinions have been altered. He already had very strong ones. Indeed, he already had a sense of mission about them.

Earlier this year, Trapattoni granted a rare one-on-one to the Italian-based journalist Paddy Agnew. In it, he went on a surprisingly long monologue about perceptions of his country. "It happens a lot that people tell me we Italians are all Mafiosi. It's frankly embarrassing but all I can do is try to be different, showing people I am a normal person who works hard and does his best."

Not to mention show his best. Make no mistake, Trapattoni feels every success he has had also improves his country's image. With Juventus, he earned respect beyond Italy but, with Italy themselves, the ultimate achievement eluded him. Trapattoni's national squad failures in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 have added another dimension to his trip home: vindication.

Throughout Trapattoni's time with Ireland, he has never made much mentioned his previous tournaments with Italy as any kind of extra motivation. Indeed, disputes over previous decisions aside, he has curiously evaded the topic and did so yet again at the team's base on Friday.

Many close to him in the Irish set-up, however, insist that it's always there; that he wants to succeed in international football.

And, by succeed, he means in the very truest sense. At pointed occasions – not least when Ireland qualified in November – Trapattoni has dropped the name "Greece" into interviews. He genuinely believes the feat of 2004 can be replicated by a similarly unfashionable team.

"We have a great opportunity to show people," Trapattoni said on Friday. "I am sure the players understand this. My feeling is they believe; they trust what we can do."

Of course, while the aim may be Greek, the approach will be Italian. Or, at least, classically Italian. Criticised throughout his career for catenaccio-style football, Trapattoni has stripped that down even further with Ireland. They defend ferociously, they look for opportune attacks... and that's it. But that has made them very hard to beat. As it stands, Ireland haven't been defeated since October 2010.

Barring the way in two weeks will be Cesare Prandelli's modern, Barcelona-inspired Italy. Old against new, another strand to be tied in.

Today, Trapattoni and his team leave his home country for Hungary and a last friendly tomorrow before Euro 2012 starts.

The team he puts out, he claims, will likely be the one that starts against Croatia next Sunday. From there, he'll be hoping for the final word. In every sense.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Sport
Sam Allardyce
sport
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?