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Beating complacency 'will see Irish cruise to victory in Armenia'

COMPLACENCY is the only obstacle to Ireland kicking off their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a win in Armenia next month.

That's the view of Gerry Murphy, Giovanni Trapattoni's scout who travelled to Yerevan to spy on the Armenians in their midweek friendly, a disappointing 3-1 defeat for the minnows at home to Iran in their last warm-up game before the qualifiers start.

The Dublin-born coach, a former boss of Huddersfield Town who has been added to the FAI's scouting roster, insisted Ireland have nothing to fear in Yerevan if they take the right approach to the game.

When the fixture list for the 2012 campaign was drawn up, some Irish fans with long memories groaned with the news that the team would kick off the campaign in one of the former states of the USSR.

As we all know, Ireland's away record in qualifying matches is poor, but Irish form in places formerly behind the Iron Curtain is worse again: since the Jack Charlton era, we have played 14 qualifiers in countries from the old eastern bloc, winning just three times (in Estonia and Lithuania under Mick McCarthy and in Georgia under Brian Kerr), though there was another 'away' win under Trap but that win over Georgia was played in a neutral ground in Germany.

So a trip to Yerevan -- where Armenia beat Belgium and narrowly lost to Spain in the World Cup qualifiers -- is not ideal from an Irish perspective, but Murphy believes that we have nothing to fear.

"Armenia are very beatable, they are not all that strong at the back and this is a game that Ireland can win -- but only if they go at it in the right way and apply themselves correctly," Murphy told the Herald after his return from Armenia last night.

"Like any side in international football, Armenia are capable of anything on their day if they play well and have a bit of luck, but from what I saw of them on Wednesday night, Ireland have nothing to fear.

"The only danger for Ireland is that the players go into this game in a complacent frame of mind because they think they are better than Armenia, if they have that attitude it could be costly.

"But I think Mr Trapattoni will have them well drilled and prepared, and if Ireland play to their strengths and go to Yerevan with the right attitude they will come home with the three points," added Murphy, a Dublin native who has just been recruited to the senior team's scout network by Don Givens.

"Ireland can get at them at the back. To me, Armenia were sold in midfield, they have some good players and they are no mugs, but their weakness is at the back -- as we saw on Wednesday when Iran scored three times.

"From what I saw of Armenia against Iran, they are disciplined and keep their shape well but their ball retention was poor, there was a nervousness in their play at times and they just couldn't keep the ball.

"Armenia went 1-0 up but you could see that Iran were the better side and, sure enough, Iran scored three after that.

"Armenia played a 4-4-1-1 formation and Aghvan Mkrtchyan was very sharp, but they lost a bit of shape early on.

"Their two central midfielders were nice players, very creative and eager to get on the ball. The two wide players did OK in the game, but their big weakness was at the back."

Irish experience of Armenian football is only fleeting -- our U21 side played them in the current European Championship campaign but Armenia won both games, and Derry City lost 2-0 in a Champions League tie to Pyunik Yerevan three years ago, so the September 3 trip is one into the unknown.

But the FAI's man on the ground this week said that the Irish players and supporters will be welcomed with open arms.

"The hotels are fine, the city is fine and I'm sure the supporters will have a good time there," said Murphy. "I talked to a few locals when I was out there and they are excited about Ireland coming to town, they had Spain there for the World Cup qualifiers and they know about the English Premier League so they're keen to see players like (Damien) Duff, (Shay) Given and (Robbie) Keane.

"The travel might be a concern as it's a five-hour flight from the UK and six hours from Dublin so that's not ideal, but the players will have to deal with these things.

"There was a small crowd for this week's game, as Armenia played Iran in the Hrazdan Stadium because their U21s were playing another match, against Georgia, in the Hanrapetakan Stadium -- and that's where the Ireland match will be next month.

"The heat could be a small factor in Armenia's favour. The game the other night was played at 9pm local time and it was still quite warm when the match started, though it did cool down, but the Irish match is at 8pm so that's something to bear in mind."