Duff injury woe pushes Trap's options to limit
WE are entering a pivotal eight days for the short-term future of Irish football, so the last thing that Giovanni Trapattoni wanted was to kick off his first press briefing by telling his audience that "the news not very well".
Trap's command of English may lack finesse but it was blatantly clear that, in whatever language, the absence of Damien Duff from the preceding training session was more than just a temporary glitch.
News of a scan on his calf muscle was bad, and the 31-year-old will return to Fulham to undergo treatment today.
Just like in the opening two Euro 2012 qualifiers, and 10 other competitive games over the last three years, Ireland will just have to make do without the Dubliner.
"Damien was very sincere. He apologised because he really wanted to play," sighed Trapattoni. "It's a muscle problem, and the muscle is very dangerous.
"He pulled the muscle because there is blood showing in the scan. After this, we spoke with doctors, and we decided that he would go home to his club."
Keith Andrews will also be boarding a flight back to the UK today and, considering that Trapattoni previously managed to earn the wrath of Sam Allardyce with a clash over Steven Reid's fitness, the Geordie won't be too impressed to hear the 71-year-old again questioning the medical decision-making process at Blackburn.
Andrews was introduced as a sub against Blackpool last Saturday week and then lined out for the reserves before he was left on the bench in the weekend loss at Stoke.
Trapattoni reckons that he needs more time to recuperate from his groin difficulties, rather than come on here and there in games when the 30-year-old is still feeling pain. "His groin. He can play 20 minutes. If they continue to go 20 minutes?" he said.
"Now. Go. Rest. This injury, he needs to recover. Maybe two weeks, maybe three weeks, one month. But when they play 20 minutes. Gone. Gone."
So, Paul Green retains his central midfield berth for the visit of Russia this Friday and, barring any hiccups, the showdown with Slovakia next Tuesday.
Trapattoni believes that Ireland can make a real statement of intent with victory against Dick Advocaat's Russians, who are smarting from their loss to the Slovaks in Moscow last month.
Indeed, if Trap's men can benefit from home advantage to take all three points from the Dublin showdown, the Irish boss would be satisfied enough with a point from the trip to Zilina. His minimum target is four points from the two games.
"Psychologically, it's better that we achieve these three points immediately," he asserted. "Because we can leave one opponent behind. A little bit far behind. Also psychologically."
Certainly, Trapattoni will be relying on the nucleus of players who delivered against Armenia and Andorra.
In addition to Duff and Andrews, he's also without some members of the back-up. Stephen Kelly and Darren O'Dea dropped out last week, with Stoke's Marc Wilson summoned to provide extra defensive cover.
Confusion reigns, however, over the absence of Preston's Keith Treacy, who has shone for his club in recent weeks, despite being hampered by a persistent groin problem.
Trapattoni was aware of that but wanted Treacy to be assessed, like Duff and Andrews, by the FAI's staff.
Treacy didn't come in and that prompted the Italian to point out the contrast between the respective attitudes of Fulham and Preston.
He said that Treacy, who was placed on standby, wanted to join the squad, but the club said otherwise.
It will be interesting to see if the 22-year-old features in the squad for next month's friendly with Norway.
Meanwhile, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has handed call-ups to Tommaso Rocchi and Cristian Molinaro for their qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Serbia.
Prandelli summoned the duo after losing striker Alberto Gilardino with a calf injury and full-back Luca Antonelli to a toe problem.
Stuttgart defender Molinaro returns to the squad in place of Antonelli, while 33-year-old Lazio captain Rocchi will provide options in a forward line lacking Gilardino's class and Mario Balotelli's pace.