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Bonner insists Italians' fear of Trap could tip balance in Ireland's favour

IRISH goalkeeping legend Packie Bonner has revealed that Italian football chiefs and fans see Giovanni Trapattoni as the bogey man who threatens their Euro 2012 ambitions.

Bonner got a first-hand view of the respect and fear Trapattoni's Ireland evokes in the Italian psyche and the hero of Euro '88 and Italia '90 hopes the 'Trap Factor' can tip the scales in our favour when Ireland play Italy in their final Group C match in Poznan on June 18.

"I was in Sweden the other week doing a goalkeeping education course for UEFA and the Italian coaches there were saying: 'We're very afraid of Ireland, because we think Trapattoni will have a plan, he will snare us, he will have something unexpected for us.'

"That's the feeling in Italy and so it's probably to our advantage that we have an Italian manager when it comes to playing them in a European championship finals," said Bonner.

The Donegal native was in Dublin at a past and present get-together where he, along with former international team-mate Kevin Sheedy and current Irish player Stephen Kelly, announced details of ESPN's live soccer on TV attractions, including Everton v Spurs (March 10), Stoke v Man City (March 24) and Kilmarnock v Celtic (April 7).

Reflecting on Ireland's very first adventure in a major international championship, Bonner said: "It's amazing that 24 years have passed. The memories are still very vivid."

The big Donegal man and Sheedy agreed on the importance to their team of the great start they made to the '88 tournament and said that Trap's men need at least to avoid defeat in their first Group game against Croatia.

After that come World champions Spain, followed by Italy, but the first game will be crucial to Irish hopes.

Said Bonner: "It's so important for the team to go into that first game in form and with the full confidence of the media, the fans, and the whole country.

"The hype will be massive and the players will be up for the challenge.

"I think they can get a win in that first game, and they'll need to get something against Italy. Spain will be difficult, of course, but it's a fantastic opportunity for all concerned."

Kevin Sheedy, capped 46 times between 1984 and 1993, reckons four points could be enough to get out of the Group, but appreciates it's a huge task.

"Four points might be enough, so the key is to beat Croatia.

"That's a massive game and it's a winnable game. I'm sure the players will approach it right and they'll be ready for it," he said.

Jack Charlton's team set a high standard in opening matches in the top tournaments.

They won their first game in Euro '88 1-0 v England; drew 1-1 with England in Italia '90, and beat Italy 1-0 in USA '94.

Mick McCarthy's side kept up the good work when they drew 1-1 against Cameroon to kick off their 2002 World Cup campaign.

Now it's up to Trapattoni's boys to maintain the Irish opening day unbeaten run. Can they do it?

Kelly replied: "We always talk about it. Every tournament you ever watch on TV -- the first game is so important. We have got to go into the game thinking we can get a result and if we do, it would be an amazing start."

Irish Independent