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Brazil perfect tonic to end Henry hangover

BRAZIL is a decent enough place to start if you're trying to cheer someone up, and it falls to the Samba Kings to help lighten the gloom most Irish fans have felt since Paris.

I remember sitting beside Alan Ball on the bus on the way back to the team hotel after we beat them in 1987, when Liam Brady scored that clever winner, and saying that it was a great win for us but it wasn't the strongest Brazilian team we had just beaten.

But Alan looked at me as if I had two heads and wondered was I mad.

"Very few people on the planet can say they beat Brazil. You're part of an elite club. Enjoy it because it will never happen again." He was right.

This time around, I expect Brazil to be pretty strong given the fact that we're only four months away from the World Cup finals, and for that reason, among others, it is an absolutely perfect game for Giovanni Trapattoni to shake off some of the negative thoughts that came after Thierry Henry's handball.

It couldn't be better really. I know that in my day, a friendly in early March was never greeted with universal approval.

This is the time of the year when all the club competitions get down to the nitty-gritty, and it was hard to drop what you were doing at Anfield and turn up for games that generally didn't mean much.

That said, it was always good to get back to Dublin for a game, but this time the Irish players won't even have to get on a plane.

A full house at the Emirates, a decent atmosphere and the sight of those famous yellow shirts should be more than enough to shake off the Henry blues and get back into the swing of things.

I've no doubt that several of the Irish players took that defeat very badly and their club form suffered as a result. But they're professionals and need to move on in international terms, in much the same way many of the senior lads did within a few days of Paris.

Look at Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given, all in with a shout of a mention for Player of the Year, if Wayne Rooney didn't have the prize stitched up already.

These are the men Trapattoni will look to for this game at the Emirates and he knows that their professional pride will not allow them to treat a game against Brazil with anything less than the height of respect.


James McCarthy is the other side of the coin: a young man with an abundance of skill who played no part in the last World Cup campaign and will bring new talents to the table for Trapattoni to use.

I know that many will look at Andy Reid, and even Steven Ireland, and wonder about Trapattoni's ability to find a place for a lad like McCarthy, who is at his most comfortable in central midfield.

I watched him for Wigan against Spurs yesterday and I liked a lot of what I saw. He has a nice touch, great confidence on the ball, has a pass and a shot and he's filling out nicely in a Premier League training regime.

I know there was a lot of fuss made by the Scots over young McCarthy and I can see why they are a bit sore.

That said, he has a long way to go yet and he wouldn't be the first young star who hit the buffers when asked to step up.

I do think this kid is different, though, and with another season or two, playing every week in the Premier League and with a steady rate of progress, he could find himself at a much bigger club.

However, he might not find as many opportunities for Ireland under Trapattoni. Both Reid and Ireland are lost to the Republic of Ireland for different reasons, but I can't help thinking that it suited Trapattoni to have both men on the outside looking in, even though he would never admit it.

Maybe he's thinking differently now. He has two months to find a way to bring both players back into his squad, but it would have to happen before the summer starts.

Once we get to August and the opening fixtures in the Euro 2012 campaign, it would be very difficult to bring either of them back -- especially if Trapattoni has managed to sign up Jamie O'Hara in the meantime.

I notice an unnamed Irish player has spoken out about the latest batch of potential recruits who might be available under the new FIFA rules, but I find that very odd indeed. Apparently, the problem is the fact that they turned out for England when they were teenagers and, on the face of it, I can see why that might bother some.

But not every kid in England with Irish heritage is brought up in an environment that encourages loyalty to the country of his parents or grandparents.

Personally, I think Trapattoni should be out there looking for new blood. He should be down at Fratton Park chatting with O'Hara, or at any of the other grounds around England where he might bump into someone with the right qualifications.

That's his job and we need only recall when Jack Charlton arrived in Oxford with John Aldridge in his sights and left with a bonus -- Ray Houghton.