GIOVANNI Trapattoni and his players are in a totally different situation now than two years back when the Irish football team was surrounded by uncertainty. When he took over, morale was at an all time low and I think we all wondered whether he had the playing resources to match his fantastic CV as a coach.
I never doubted that Trapattoni would bring discipline, organisation and a workable system to the table but there was a big question mark over the range of talent available to him and whether he could produce a coherent unit capable of making a serious run at qualification for the World Cup finals in South Africa.
But today, Trapattoni is in a much better place. He has options which were never really considered before and he has set about achieving the aim of every manager -- club or country -- by indentifying two men for each position with some success.
The squad is still light on the attacking side but by promoting lads like Sean St Ledger and Liam Lawrence to starting roles and introducing new faces like Greg Cunningham, Keith Fahey, Kevin Foley, Keith Treacy and Paul Green among others, he has broadened his player base from an opening position where he was struggling to find a strong starting XI.
He showed with St Ledger that he is willing to gamble on a player once he believes in him and Green is the latest evidence of this.
The Derby midfielder was unknown up to a few months back and his rise has been meteoric.
I must say, I would have favoured Darron Gibson as a partner for Glenn Whelan in midfield because he brings more to the table as a player.
We've seen very little of Green and can't really judge him until we see more, but the simple fact that Gibson is just a step away from establishing himself as a Manchester United regular while Green has been operating at a lower level for his entire career tells its own story.
The fact that Trapattoni has settled on Green also tells us a lot about his mindset for this Euro 2012 opener against Armenia. Put it this way, I don't think we'll see a repeat of the performance in Paris.
That should be the starting point for this campaign. Ireland played with great freedom against the French and put in the best display of the whole campaign but I think Trapattoni would see it as a gamble if he told his players to play with more adventure in Yerevan.
He is in the results business and I expect to see the Ireland we saw for most of the World Cup qualifying series -- tight, disciplined and defensive.
Much was made after Paris of the idea that the players took control of their own destiny against France.
Maybe there was something in that but I don't think for a second that the players were acting outside the parameters handed to them by Trapattoni.
As a matter of certainty, they won't be doing anything the manager doesn't like against Armenia.
A good start is all-important and Trapattoni will stick with caution as his watchword.
It's a pity really. The players showed against France and at other times in the series that they can play well when allowed.
Moreover, I suspect they would have won at least four more points against Italy in Bari and Bulgaria in Sofia if the approach had been somewhat more adventurous.
But that's an opinion and nothing more. Trapattoni is the man on the spot and it will be his decisions that make or break this campaign.
The players will definitely gain great confidence from events in the Stade de France back in November. Not many would have predicted that they would split Italy and Bulgaria and nobody really thought that they could make a bid to top the group.
But they did and this time they are even better placed to repeat that achievement and perhaps go one better.
Fortunately for Trapattoni, he is working with a group of players who still devote a great deal of passion and commitment to playing for their country.
As the demands of the club game grow ever more intense, I think we can be confident that Irish players will always want to give their best.
That's why I don't think that lads like Shay Given or Robbie Keane will be any more motivated than they would normally be. More important is the fact that this could be the last opportunity they will have to qualify for a major tournament. If they need any extra motivation, that's where they can find it.