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Given purges paris demons

IT'S IN WEEKS like this one that it all starts to hit home.

England were in action against Egypt in a friendly last night and all the talk is about the World Cup finals, who'll make the cut and who will be cut off by Fabio Capello. Wayne Rooney pleads for a place in the squad for Joe Cole, Michael Owen makes meek noises suggesting he's not thinking about the World Cup, while Wayne Bridge has already opted to spend his summer anywhere but South Africa.

Twenty four hours earlier in the same city it was the same scenario, this time with Brazil. Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (the fat Brazilian one, not the skinny Portuguese version) are out, and the quality present on the Brazilian bench was a real sign of how much talent they have at their disposal, big names like Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona) and Grafite (Wolfsburg) all having to make do with a place on the bench and the hope that they will make Dunga's squad for the finals.

Meanwhile, the boys in green -- or maroon in the case of Shay Given, as his new goalkeeper's jersey was more like something seen on the GAA pitches of Galway or Westmeath -- know that their summer will be a blank one.

And for Given, it's not easy to swallow, as the ghosts of Paris still swirl around this Irish side.

"It will be hard to take when the World Cup kicks off in the summer, and living in England is worse as you read about it every day. It's very frustrating when we're not taking part. So we just have to look to the European Championship qualifiers and look forward, not backwards," Given said after Tuesday's defeat to the Brazilians.

"We have two games in May and even though they are on at the end of our club season I'd hope to be around for them. I don't know what the manager plans, maybe he will want to play some of the younger lads, but if called upon I will be there."

As he prepares for the next campaign, Giovanni Trapattoni is comforted by the eagerness of his key players to play international football.

Only last week the Italian praised the dedication of Damien Duff, who won his 81st senior cap against the Brazilians. For last year's friendly against South Africa, Trapattoni offered the senior players in the squad the chance to duck out of international duty for the game (the South Africa match was the meaningless second act in a double header which began with a qualifier away to Cyprus) and either rest their injuries or spend some time with their families.

"Duff came to me, he said 'boss, can I stay and play in the game'," Trapattoni said, and it's clear that while other big-name players like Ryan Giggs do all they can to miss friendly games, Given (103 caps), Robbie Keane (99 caps) and Duff (81) are eager to play in every one.

Of course, Given's eagerness to play as much as possible has caused others some distress, notably Dean Kiely who twice walked away from the international set-up in frustration at the lack of game time given to other keepers due to Given's near ever-present record.


Roy Keane once jibed Given in public over the issue. "I think players have agendas. Certain players come over all the time no matter what. Maybe they want to get 50 caps or 100 caps and a pat on the back for it. Shay is one of those ones. He wants to get 200 caps," Keane sniped a few years ago, a comment which Given then labelled "comical".

But Given says he's playing for the sake of the team, not for personal glory.

"It's not just about getting caps for me, it's about qualifying. Myself and Kevin broke the caps record the other night but it wasn't about that," he said.

"We are still disappointed with what happened in Paris and the two of us do feel that we can help the squad and have a chance of qualifying. We're not just playing to get caps, we want to bring something to the squad and the team, and the day we're not doing that we will step aside and let the younger players take over.

"I hope to be around for a good bit yet.

"I see that Edwin van der Sar signed a new contract that takes him up to 41, so some keepers do get better with age and experience and hopefully that'll be the case with me," added the Manchester City man.