Trapattoni: Gaining early lead vital for home stretch
GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI believes Ireland have landed a route that can deliver automatic qualification for Euro 2012.
The Italian feels that his side are capable of topping Group B and avoiding a dreaded play-off, with his conviction strengthened by a favourable outcome to the random draw to determine the fixtures which took place in Israel yesterday.
Ireland start off away to Armenia in September before the visit of Andorra to Dublin, with the first meetings with main rivals Russia and Slovakia scheduled for October.
Trapattoni reckons his team are capable of building momentum for the decisive encounters; another double header with the Russians and Slovaks in September of next year is preceded by home and away clashes with Macedonia before Ireland round up with what should be a comfortable finish against Andorra and Armenia.
"For me, it is a very, very good start," said Trapattoni. "In September, our players will be fit and I think that is very good news and important news.
"For me, these three games, Armenia away, Andorra and Russia at home, I think we can have a good option to gain an advantage (before the trip to Slovakia).
"The Russia and Slovakia games will be important but we must arrive at those games with an advantage. We believe we could potentially be in a good position going into the first Russia home game and then the second time we play in September 2011. After that, we have a good opportunity to finish the group well."
Ireland missed out on this summer's World Cup after the heartbreaking play-off exit to France and, given their lowly status in UEFA's convoluted new co-efficient system, they would be unseeded if they ended up in a runners-up spot again (although the best runner-up does make the finals).
Understandably, Trapattoni would prefer to avoid a winner-takes-all encounter this time around and has expressed confidence in his team's ability to top the group.
"I think this draw is difficult, but I think it's a better draw than the last World Cup," said the 70-year-old. "The last one was harder with the likes of Italy and then Montenegro and Bulgaria games falling at difficult times.
"We have a huge belief in our ability. It is clear from the beginning when we played Georgia until now, we've made enormous steps forward. You look at how we faced up to Bulgaria, Montenegro, Italy and then France and lately Brazil. You can see this is a team that believes in itself and that will serve us well going into the qualification programme."