Marco Tardelli: I never said Irish players lack intelligence
MARCO Tardelli has no regrets about the decision to leave Wes Hoolahan out of the Ireland squad for the European Championships four years ago.
But he does regret causing any offence to the current Ireland management and squad in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last week where he appeared to question their football intelligence.
Speaking today, the former assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni moved to address those comments and explained that he did not mean to insult Martin O'Neill's players.
Tardelli was quoted as saying that the Irish team 'don't get that football is also an intellectual matter' and indicated that they often act without stopping to think.
In the aftermath of the win over Italy on Wednesday, O'Neill responded by saying that victorious team had shown they could use their heads.
Asked if he believed that the Irish players lacked football intelligence, Tardelli said: "It is not what I think at all. I was trying to explain that this is a team that plays offensively, they put their head down and attack. But there is always a moment in a match when you have to stop and take the foot off the accelerator.
"When you say ‘use your head’ in Italian it’s a manner of speech. To give you an example, It’s what I would say to my son. It doesn't mean you lack intelligence, I am simply saying to you ‘be careful, now it’s time to stop and think.'
"I have the utmost respect for this team and these players and I would never say anything to offend them. I have fond memories of Ireland, they were fantastic years. I had the pleasure of meeting Martin O’Neil and I wish him and the team all the best in this tournament and in the future."
Tardelli said that Ireland had played well enough to secure two wins in the group stage and said that he was happy for influential figure Hoolahan who was not brought to Poland in 2012 and only made his competitive debut a year later after Trapattoni was put under pressure to include the playmaker.
"I have no regrets, really," said Tardelli, with reference to 2012. "You have to put It in context. We followed Wes and called him up but we had a solid group at that point and we thought we should stick with that. I am glad he is doing well.
"I think Ireland played well in general. I wasn't surprised by their performance against Italy because I know what this team can deliver.
"They were unlucky against Sweden and at the back of that match I was expecting a better performance against Belgium."
Tardelli also praised Jeff Hendrick, repeating that he had recommended the player to Italian clubs but they overlooked him.
"The reference to 'not expensive enough' had nothing with his qualities or Irish football," said Tardelli, "The first time I worked on TV at the beginning of the tournament, they asked me who I thought would stand out and make a mark from the Irish players and my immediate response was Jeff Hendrick. He is a player that impressed me from the first time I saw him play."
The former World Cup winner believes that a repeat of the performance against Italy would give O'Neill's men a chance of a famous upset in Lyon. He was in the dugout for the Thierry Henry handball match in 2009 and hopes this group can 'regain what was taken from them.'
"It will be a tough match," he stressed. "France are playing at home, and we know very well what they are like at home! If Ireland repeat the same performance as the Italy game they will have a good opportunity to succeed."