Ireland’s new generation of potential stars have provided Giovanni Trapattoni with a “beautiful surprise”.
The 69-year-old Italian has spent the last six days working with his players for the first time in Dublin and Portugal, and has been impressed by what he has seen.
The Republic headed for the Algarve without Shay Given, through injury, and fellow key players Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane because of club or personal commitments.
However, having seen some of the less established members of his squad make an impact in the 1-1 draw with Portimonese on Sunday and last night’s 3-1 victory over Lagos, Trapattoni is optimistic for the future.
He said: “I already know the famous players. I already know Damien Duff, I already know Kevin Doyle.
“But it has been a beautiful surprise, the young players like Alex Bruce – he has come and played with confidence – and also yesterday, Kevin Foley, he was not bad. He can improve.
“The older players, I already know. This week, what has been very, very important for me is that the players understand better our mentality.
“When they understand we can play more quickly, we have more possibilities.”
Trapattoni has been particularly pleased with the form of Wolves striker Andy Keogh, who scored in both games in Portugal.
Asked about the 22-year-old, he said: “He has time to think. He is not an easy opponent. When the ball comes, he understands immediately what to do.
“That’s important, very important.”
Trapattoni and his players will watch tomorrow night’s Champions League final on television as their time on the Algarve draws to a close.
They will return to Dublin on Thursday ahead of their friendly clashes with Serbia and Colombia with the manager delighted at his week’s work and the performance against Lagos.
He said: “I am very happy with the result, but also with our attitude and what the players showed us.
“With that mentality and that order, I hope we can also, against very important teams like Serbia and Colombia, show our fans this week for us has been very, very important.
“I have said to them I am happy with their attitude. Results are important, but it is important also that they are happy because they understand that this system will help us go forward.”
Shane Long, Wes Hoolahan, Darren Potter and Daryl Murphy sat out this morning’s training session with calf, knee, heel and Achilles problems respectively, but all four are expected to be fit for the Serbia game on Saturday.
But even rain at the Estadio Municipal in Lagos could not dampen the spirits of their team-mates.
Among them was Sunderland midfielder Liam Miller, who is ending an eventful season on a high note.
The 27-year-old was transfer-listed by Black Cats boss Roy Keane in February for persistent poor time-keeping, but forced his way back into the team during the closing weeks of the Premier League campaign.
It remains to be seen whether he has done enough to win a permanent reprieve, but he is determined to play his way back into Keane’s long-term plans.
He said: “Things happened and that’s that, but I got back in the team and we managed to stay up as well, which is good.
“It’s going okay. We will just have to wait and see now.
“I just got my head down, trained hard and got myself back in the team.
“I think he [Keane] has been happy enough, I suppose. Things have gone okay.
“I would imagine I am still on the list, but I am trying to play my way off it. That’s the best thing I can do at the moment.”