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Ice-cool Trap bringing calm before storm

NERVES? Tension? Worries? As far as Giovanni Trapattoni is concerned, none of the above apply. Like his players, the Ireland manager is a rock of calmness and concentration. Maybe this is why he costs so much.

"As a manager, I'm not nervous but I am fully focused," he said in his traditional pre-match press conference, and there is absolutely no reason to doubt him.

He was much the same before Ireland played France two years ago, but this time, his calm exterior is backed up by the knowledge that in the last eight games, Ireland have conceded just one goal.

That in itself provides ample reason for confidence and has made Trapattoni's job easy this week. There is very little motivation required for this one.

"When the game is as important as this, I don't want to put more pressure on the players. I know they are already nervous and if the manager or the coach gives more pressure then maybe the players suffer.

"As a manager, you need to understand psychology, offer assurance and calm. In a situation like this, when the players are so determined, what we need most is cool heads and warm hearts."

Good advice in any walk of life, never mind football and, in this case, underpinned by his own remarkable self-belief and glittering CV.

However, Trapattoni is so wary of complacency that his pre-match pep talk is certain to be both fiery and detailed. He has left no stone unturned in his own mind to make sure that Ireland's position as favourites to qualify does not rest heavily on his players' shoulders.

"Someone suggested yesterday that we are favourites, but I don't think so. I believe we will qualify but we must wait for 180 minutes and after this time we can say whether we deserve to go on or not.

"This is the game of their life for the Estonians, but it is the same for us. You don't get many chances to qualify for the finals of a tournament and this time could be the last for some of the players and me.

"In the modern game, every Saturday or Sunday in England or Italy, we see the little teams beat the big teams. That is football. It's not a surprise. So we must treat this 180 minutes of football as if our life depended on it -- the players, the manager, the Irish people. I would be very proud if we could achieve this result."

Trapattoni refused to be drawn into a debate about his final selection choice. Whether Simon Cox starts or Jon Walters is a call he will leave until the last minute, and from his point of view, this is just a detail.

"We have a salad, a mix, we needed to organise them and give them a philosophy and an identity. Our team now has a good identity.

"Whether I choose Cox or Walters or even when we are missing two or three players, the team doesn't change, and this is very important for a manager. The team must believe what the manager says, and they do. I am proud of this."