Of course Ireland can win the Euros, insists Trapattoni

 

Gdynia

To some, it may seem like utter fantasy. To Ireland, though, it is something that truly fires them. Do not be under any illusions. Giovanni Trapattoni and his team genuinely believe they can win Euro 2012.

"In life, never say never," the manager said at Ireland's training camp here yesterday. "After six games, maybe the dream comes true?"

One of his principal lieutenants – indeed, the player who owes his entire international career to Trapattoni – sounded a similar note. "We want to be here right to the end," Glenn Whelan said.

When asked did he really mean that, the Stoke midfielder was emphatic. "Oh yeah. Why not? Anything can happen. You look at Greece a few years ago. I'm sure if there was a Greece player who said 'let's go to the end', people would be laughing at them. But why not?"

Yes, Greece. The team that set the template for mid-tier sides like Ireland. Even Trapattoni has mentioned their name at pointed occasions during his four years in charge, not least the night that Ireland finally secured qualification. That raises another question: has he outright mentioned their name to the players in order to motivate them?

"No, he has never called us Greece or said, 'we could be like Greece'. It's something that's been thrown around because of the underdog tag. Who would have ever expected them to win a European Championship? So why not us? We know it's going to be a massive task. We are not silly. No one is really giving us a chance and if it comes off it is going to be one of the biggest upsets. But set your targets high and see what you can achieve."

As is so often the case on the pitch, the occasionally criticised midfielder was in perfect step with his manager's mindset. Trapattoni also mixed resolve with a few reservations.

"It is a dream... too many situations must be in our favour: no injuries, no red cards. But it's true what you say. There is no result that ever satisfies me because I am never happy unless I get the ultimate prize."

Before Ireland can think of that, though, there's a more pertinent question: in order to win the tournament, do they need to win against Croatia tomorrow in Poznan?

Because, whatever way you look at it, Slaven Bilic's team are the closest to Ireland in terms of quality, form and status. In short, they're the most beatable of the three opponents in Group C.

"Ourselves and Croatia are probably the two that no-one expects to get out of the group," Whelan admitted. "Being paired with each other for the first game is massive because it can set you up. It's two nations that people don't expect to get out of the group, so it's crucial."

But will that fact be lost amid the caginess of a first game and the general acceptance that it is fine to draw?

If so, that might be dangerous. Despite perceptions, 59 per cent of teams who have drawn their opening match in a 16-team European Championship have gone out in the first round. What's more, to return to the Greece template, the only group match the 2004 champions actually won was their first.

With that in mind, what is the team's attitude to a draw? "I'll tell you after the Italy game," Whelan said. "It depends... a draw is OK if we get a result out of either Spain or Italy. Ask any manager, you don't go into a game to draw." Indeed, Trapattoni was asked. "Obviously, I think we can win. We don't play any games to think of a draw. We watch for chances to score and know how to score."

That last line probably says more than the simplicity of Trapattoni's English allows. Because, while Bilic has spoken of altering his team's counter-attacking game in order to maximise the opportunity of beating Ireland, Trapattoni won't be so bold. His team's approach will still be based on defensive strength and simple opportunism – in other words, those chances the manager talked about. It is, after all, the tactics that have fostered the second-longest unbeaten run of all Euro 2012 sides.

Similarly, the manager has gone back on his comments after the Hungary game on Monday night, when he said he may have to consider altering the midfield to avoid his 4-4-2 being exposed by teams with more bodies there... like Croatia. By yesterday, he all but confirmed he will be starting with Monday's XI – including the recent injury doubt, goalkeeper Shay Given.

In that context, Whelan will probably be charged with directly stopping Tottenham schemer Luka Modric. "It's one player. They've got 10 others that can hurt you. If we just keep doing what we've been doing and not conceding many goals, we'll give ourselves a great chance."

And, if the manager and player are to be believed, not just tomorrow.

Ireland's likely lads: Three to watch

Richard Dunne

Somewhat erratic for Aston Villa, but the epitome of assurance for Ireland. The entire system is built on Dunne's resilience at the back and he is the single absolutely irreplaceable member of the team.

Aiden McGeady

After an underwhelm-ing first four years in Trapattoni's system, there are signs McGeady is finally starting to show his dynamism on the wing. Most of Ireland's attacks will go through him tomorrow.

James McClean

The Sunderland winger won't start, but – given how much Trapattoni works his wide men – will surely come on. And his energy and directness may well open up – and potentially decide – the game.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor