Minasyan not fazed by Euro failure after laying quality foundations
LIKE his charges, Armenia manager Vardan Minasyan's name has yet to register in the upper echelons of European football, but both he and his players are fast gaining recognition beyond their borders.
The man who juggles the international job with his role as coach of old club Pyunik for a combined salary of €50,000 per year, is gaining a reputation as one of the most impressive young managers in international football.
Last night at the Aviva Stadium, he didn't look like a man under pressure to deliver a first finals place for the surprise package of these qualifiers.
Confidently answering questions in English and his native tongue, the coach was adamant that failing to secure qualification for a Euro 2012 play-off would be "no tragedy".
However, after recent victories over Slovakia and Macedonia, the expectation back home is rising.
"I don't think we have to qualify. We have another task, because when I took this team, for me the first task was, because it was a new generation, to build some quality to begin -- to make a team," he said.
"I brought in 10 players from the U-21s to this team. First we make a team with good spirit and good quality. This was my first task. So also for this game against Ireland, if we don't finish with a win it is no tragedy for us.
"We have already taken a lot from this campaign. We are ahead of schedule. Then we have the World Cup in Brazil to look forward to."
News had reached Minasyan of Robbie Keane's absence from the Irish fold and he acknowledged: "It's good for us that he is not playing.
"I think he is a big player for your team and I think he is a player with great spirit.
"The Irish team is a very strong team, but we also believe that we can beat this team."
Minasyan was not involved with the Armenian U-21 team that effectively ended Don Givens' time in charge with a 2-1 win in Tallaght and a 4-1 success in Yerevan.
But with nearly half of his squad made up of players who were involved in those clashes, he reckons his players now believe in their own abilities at this level -- although they struggled against Ireland in the campaign opener.
"This generation have more confidence now. They are young and they have great desire. They want to achieve something in their life because they have just started to play football," he said.
Ireland will hope that those achievements are put on hold for two more years.
Armenia (probable) -- Berezovski (FC Khimki, Russia); Hovseryan (Pyunik), Mkoyan (FC Mika), Aleksanyan (Sanat Naft, Iran), Hayrapetyan (Lechia, Poland); Mkrtchyan (Metallurg Donetsk), Edigaryan (FC Banants); Mkhitaryan (Shaktar Donetsk), Pizelli (Metallurg Donetsk), Ghazaryan (Metallurg Donetsk); Movsisyan (FC Krasnodor, Russia).