ONE point gained or two lost?
Giovanni Trapattoni could afford to be a little philosophical as he addressed the classic football teaser following last night’s draw in Zilina.
“I was confident before the game but now I can afford to be a little disappointed,” he said.
“But in the light of the last game, against Russia, I think we can accept the draw. I said I hoped for a good reaction and that is exactly what we got. We could actually have closed the game out with that penalty in the first half. Overall, I felt it was a game we deserved to win.
“The result was a positive situation psychologically and also promising for the future. Shane Long and Keith Fahey showed us we now have two great options.
“I congratulated them both because they played a great game. They can be very important players for the future.”
Apart from wishing Ireland had converted one point into three, Trapattoni’s only disappointment was with the concession of a goal from a set piece.
“We conceded a goal from a corner but we had no other difficult situation to deal with because the defence played well,” he maintained.
But at the other end of the pitch, he did suggest that Robbie Keane’s night of misses rather than hits can be attributed to his lack of game time at Spurs – though he wasn’t inclined to heap blame on him for missing his penalty.
“Robbie missing the penalty is no problem,” he said. “Other players miss penalties. Because he scored three days ago – and he knew the goalkeeper knew – he changed the way he took the penalty. It is not an easy thing to do. The problem is his match fitness is not 100% because he doesn’t play regularly for his club. But Maradona missed a penalty and he was the best in the world.”
Asked why he’d appeared so agitated as the Irish captain waited to take the spot kick, Trapattoni revealed: “I was whistling at Shane Long to get closer to the box in case there was a rebound. And,” he added ruefully, “there was a rebound.”
The manager insisted that, even after last night’s games, it was still too early to predict the final outcome of Group B. “We still have to play Slovakia at home.
“The group is very balanced. Russia won but only one-nil and Macedonia missed a penalty.
“In one year many situations happen – injury, fatigue, the effects of a long season. We must earn this qualification over many games. But it’s important that we have the right mentality and attitude and that we believe in our system.”
As to the Green versus Gibson debate – which had its moment in the spotlight last night – Trapattoni jokingly yielded the verdict to the press, before delivering his own in inimitable style.
“Green or Gibson? I will wait for your votes tomorrow,” he smiled. “But for me, until his injury, Paul Green was the best on the pitch. And the referee doesn’t allow us to play 12 players.”
And with that he was off into the cold Slovakian night, his heart clearly warmed by an evening which had helped restore the faith.
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