There is no talk of winning or losing in the Irish or the Russian camps this week. Nobody doubts which way the result will fall when they meet in Kobe tomorrow. This game will be about so much more than the numbers beside each nation’s name at the final whistle.
It might be hard to imagine Graeme Souness, the Roy Keane of his era, taking to the pitch for even a routine assignment with anything other than his most ferocious battle face on but, as he revealed in his Sunday newspaper column at the weekend, he and his Liverpool team mates were “larking around like 12-year-olds” in the tunnel before they walked out to play Roma in the latter’s own backyard in the 1984 European Cup final.
The more you talk to Republic of Ireland players ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier against Wales the more obvious it is the fixation on Gareth Bale is centred outside the home team’s camp rather than within it.