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Saturday 24 March 2018

Tardelli welcomes England visit as ideal test

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARCO TARDELLI believes the Euro 2012 big guns will want to draw Ireland but will regret it afterwards -- a statement that extends to England, who are on course to visit Dublin next June if next month's draw keeps the two nations apart.

The Irish assistant boss was in confident form yesterday, echoing the sentiments of Giovanni Trapattoni who on Saturday said he wouldn't be afraid of any of the major powers.

"We have already played against teams like France, Croatia, Russia -- we have met 50pc of the great teams in football and done well," said Trapattoni.

Tardelli thinks that Ireland would have a chance against England, too, delivering a knowing smile when the question was asked.

However, if the draw on December 2 separates Ireland and England, then Trapattoni and Fabio Capello are likely to meet in a long-awaited friendly in the first week of June.

The English FA are understood to accept that they owe the FAI a friendly in Dublin after the shenanigans that brought their last meeting to an abrupt end back at Lansdowne Road in 1995.

England plan to have two games in the first week of June with Saturday, June 2 and Tuesday, June 5 two possible dates. With the FA believed to want their final warm-up game at home, then the Saturday date is more likely, although it would be accompanied by a huge security operation.

"It would be a good test," said Tardelli, "It's very important to play against a big team before the cup."

A February date has previously been mooted, but England are down to play Holland then. But if they were to be drawn together in Kiev, that game would be postponed -- thus leaving a potential window.

Certainly, a June date with England would energise supporters, although some Irish players would rather play at a different time than a week before a major finals.

Either way, it's a good problem for all concerned, a break from the pressure of this juncture two years ago when they were fighting a rearguard action against France.

"I think it's a very good achievement," said Tardelli, "I'm very happy because nobody would think that 4-0 would be possible."

Trapattoni will start with a strong team for the second leg tomorrow and will be taking no chances, although the visitors are without their first-choice goalkeeper and two centre-halves, who are all suspended after the drama in Tallinn.

Stephen Kelly (groin) is out, but Damien Duff has recovered from the rib injury he sustained in Estonia. John O'Shea's return from a hamstring problem means that the replacement for Kelly is a straightforward issue, while Trapattoni indicated that Kevin Doyle will get the nod ahead of Jonathan Walters because the Wolves striker is fresher as he is returning from a ban.

Robbie Keane will start the game, although it's possible he might not end it given that he has a big date at the weekend with LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup final.

A night of celebration is planned, though, with injured players Shane Long and Kevin Foley coming over to be a part of it. An invitation has also been extended to Kevin Kilbane, although he will not be a part of the squad despite some suggestions to the contrary.

The veteran, on loan at Derby, has lost his place in the squad, but management and the rest of the panel would like him to be there considering his efforts earlier in the campaign. He has yet to confirm his attendance.

It could be a farewell for Kilbane, but the squad are preparing for two more years of Trapattoni. Both the FAI and the manager batted away questions about accelerating contract talks over the weekend, yet it's likely that proceedings will speed on once tomorrow night is out of the way.

Trapattoni has stated that he would go elsewhere if his time with Ireland comes to an end, with retirement out of the question. But he coined one of his phrases to point out that, essentially, faraway fields aren't always greener. "The more woods you visit, the more wolves you find," he said.

Irish Independent

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