Giovanni Trapattoni is refusing to throw caution to the wind as he attempts to launch the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with victory in Armenia.
The Republic will run out at the Yerevan Republican Stadium tomorrow evening knowing a win would send them into Tuesday night’s clash with Group B minnows Andorra in Dublin with an excellent chance to open their account with maximum points.
However, Trapattoni, whose side went unbeaten through their World Cup qualifying group only to be undone in the play-offs by France, who won 1-0 at Croke Park before a controversial draw in Paris sent them through to South Africa, will adopt the same approach as he has done throughout his reign to date.
That will mean ensuring Ireland do not lose the game first and foremost and return with at least something to show for their efforts.
Asked if he would settle for a 1-0 victory tomorrow, he said: “Sure. Immediately.
“We have to play as we have played in games in the past. It is important that we recognise when we can play and when we cannot. The most important thing is the result.”
Trapattoni’s pragmatism may infuriate his critics, but he can point to the positive results which took his team to within a hair’s breadth of the World Cup finals.
It is a theme he revisits regularly whenever he is asked if Ireland could play a more expansive game.
He said: “Brazil and Argentina played beautiful football at the World Cup. They went home.”
At 71, ambition still burns bright for Trapattoni as he attempts to guide the Republic to the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 2002.
Their current group is a tough one, with Russia, Slovakia and Macedonia their most likely challengers.
Asked if they could go one better than they did in the last campaign, which saw them finish second behind reigning world champions Italy, Trapattoni replied: “I have been a manager for 30 years and I have never said ’I am sure’. But in my heart, I feel maybe we can win it.
“But it is not an easy group – Slovakia, Russia, Ireland...”
As the expectant Armenian media waited, Trapattoni added: “Armenia”, although more out of respect than expectation.
Even the most patriotic Armenians will admit Vardan Minasyan’s men will have their work cut out to have a major impact on the group.
However, Ireland made something of a name for themselves as they pushed Italy close and then gave France the fright of their lives last time around, and Trapattoni is looking for exactly the same level of performance.
He said: “In the last qualifying campaign, we were unbeaten, and we have to have that same mentality.
“We have to think about our opponents, but the team knows this is our way.
“The first thing, although we always want to play well when possible, is the result. Afterwards, we will think about whether we played well or not.
“We have to play for the result. I don’t know whether tomorrow’s game will be good or not good, but it is the result that is important.”
Skipper Robbie Keane and defender Richard Dunne, who have been nursing injuries in recent days, both trained at the stadium this evening and are expected to start the game.
Dunne will line up alongside Sean St Ledger in central defence in front of keeper Shay Given, with John O’Shea and Kevin Kilbane filling the full-back berths.
Liam Lawrence, Paul Green, Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady will play across the middle with Kevin Doyle partnering Keane in attack.