Tardelli would give up World Cup medal for the three points
MARCO TARDELLI has fond memories of Barcelona, the scene of Italian victories over Argentina, Brazil and Poland on the road to World Cup glory in 1982.
Yet with a glint in his eye, the Irish assistant manager has quipped that he would swap his winner's medal for one night in return for three points from this part of the world tomorrow evening. Of course, the Ireland camp would prefer to be taking on Andorra in the Catalan city rather than making a three-hour journey through the Pyrenees this morning to the match venue.
Needs must, however, and there was a good energy about the session at Espanyol's training complex last evening, backing up the assertion from management and players that there is no complacency about the task ahead.
There is too much at stake, with the Euro 2012 prize in sights. Centre-half Darren O'Dea, who is set to benefit from the absence of Richard Dunne by partnering Sean St Ledger in the heart of the back four, was in assertive form.
"We know how difficult it will be," he stressed. "And we know what's riding on it. From his time at Celtic, the confident Dubliner has regular experience of entering games as a dominant force that is expected to stroll to victory. One of his worst memories in a Hooped shirt was a Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Ross County, a horror show that Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady will also want to forget.
"I know that it's like to be involved in a bad one," warned O'Dea. "And, certainly, not getting three points would be a bad one. If we don't do that, then we all know the consequences."
Patience and concentration have been the buzz words of the week. In the pokey stadium, there won't be a huge Irish presence to increase the nerves if things start slowly.
Nevertheless, in their own heads, the players accept they need to be mentally strong.
"Concentration will be massive, but I don't think anyone is worried that is going to be an issue," said O'Dea. It will be a different kind of challenge to the onslaught he faced in Moscow, where he marvelled at the performance of Dunne alongside him.
He acknowledges it was a hard game to recover from and recalls struggling on the Saturday when he returned to Leeds.
"It was just the adrenaline and the buzz," he says. "That was a fantastic night, but it will be worth nothing if we don't win the next two games."
The Irish team will get a first look at the dreaded surface at the Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella this afternoon and Tardelli is conscious about avoiding unnecessary apprehension. "It's a dangerous match," he said. "But I am sleeping well at night."