Trapattoni: ‘We can top the group’
Giovanni Trapattoni has backed his Irish team to secure automatic qualification for the European Championships.
The road to the 2012 finals in Poland and the Ukraine begins in Armenia this evening and, although they are third seeds in Group B, Trapattoni believes Ireland have improved enough to be considered favourites.
He respects the claims of Russia and Slovakia, but is confident his side can top the group. "I am a manager for 30 years, and I never say to you I am sure," said Trapattoni, when asked who was the favourites for automatic qualification. "But, in my heart, I think that maybe we can be. Yes, Ireland."
The 71-year-old's side face a difficult examination in the Yerevan heat this evening.
Temperatures struck the high 30s here yesterday and, while it will be cooler at 8.0 local kick-off time (4.0 Irish), the conditions will be far more draining than the visitors are used to.
Trapattoni has, as expected, awarded a first competitive start to Derby's Paul Green who steps in for the injured Keith Andrews.
Aiden McGeady deputises for the sidelined Damien Duff in the only other change from the XI which endured heartbreak in Paris.
Skipper Robbie Keane admits he is short of 100pc fitness with a knee problem, but is hoping that he will be well enough to avoid needing an injection to get through the game.
The Tallaght man also reckons that this Irish group is ready to take the next step. "I think the confidence the players have with each other and the new players coming in, can only make us a better team," Keane said.