Andrews straining at leash to take on Europe's top dogs
KEITH ANDREWS last night admitted that Ireland's players had secretly hoped for one of the host nations in yesterday's draw, but reckons Giovanni Trapattoni's knowledge of Italy will come in handy next summer.
The Ireland midfielder acknowledged that the draw for Group C of Euro 2012 was a tough one, but is looking forward to pitting himself against the likes of Xavi, Andrea Pirlo and Luka Modric in Poland.
Describing Spain of one of the "best teams in living memory", Andrews said the reigning world and European champions would be a tough proposition, but one he is looking forward to facing.
"There's no denying it, it's a tough draw. We said before, privately, that if we got one of the host nations, then we'd have taken one of those," he said.
"We've drawn the holders and to pit ourselves against a team like that is fantastic. If you can't look forward to games like this, pitting yourselves against the best players in the world and one of the best teams to have played over the last 20 or 30 years, then there is something wrong."
As for Italy and Croatia, the Ipswich midfielder reckons that Ireland's recent record against the duo will stand to them.
"We know them very well," he said. "We played against Italy in the last campaign a couple of times and were unbeaten against them.
"I'm sure the manager will know them inside out. We played Croatia at the start of the season and we're fully aware of their strengths. They're a fine footballing side, but with those two teams in particular, we're fully confident we can get a result against them."
Kevin Doyle agreed with Andrews' assessment of the group, but said the reality of seeing the draw has lifted the anticipation levels. "It could have been easier, but it is exciting. You see those teams listed out there and it makes you realise what you're involved in," he said.
"The reigning champions, Italy and Croatia -- they're pretty decent teams. We're looking forward to it."
And Doyle said the manager's knowledge of Italy and his heightened preparation for games against his native team will stand to them. "We did ourselves justice against them in the World Cup games and last summer," he said.
"We have nothing to fear against them. I think the manager takes it a little bit more seriously when we play Italy. He really wants to win."
Sean St Ledger agreed. "We've played them a lot in recent times," the Leicester defender said.
"We've had some good results but we know about their quality. We've got our best results when we have been underdogs. We've got as much chance as anyone else in the group."