Trapattoni praises Ireland defenders

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni reserved special praise for his defenders after last night's 0-0 draw with Croatia at the Aviva Stadium.

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni reserved special praise for his defenders after last night's 0-0 draw with Croatia at the Aviva Stadium.

The hosts' goalscoring opportunities in the friendly were few and far between, but it was a generally sound display at the back for Ireland against a team ranked ninth in the world and with a starting line-up that included Tottenham trio Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka.

Wolves utility man Stephen Ward, who filled in for Kevin Kilbane at full-back to earn his fourth cap for the Republic, was particularly impressive and could now present Trapattoni with a selection headache ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifying double-header against Slovakia and Russia on September 2 and 6.

Asked if Ward had done enough to justify a start next month, Trapattoni said: "Yes, I think so, because he showed good personality against a very dangerous opponent.

"Particularly in the first half, he played very well. I think after this test, he has confirmed we can have trust in him."

Ward showed his versatility by moving into a more advanced role later in the match, something Trapattoni was well aware he could call upon the 25-year-old to do.

"We followed him last season and for his club he played in midfield," Trapattoni said.

"I already had an idea about him in this position and when Glenn Whelan picked up a bit of an injury, I could change it with him (Ward) in midfield. It did not change our play too much."

The result saw Trapattoni's side, who went into the contest off the back of four straight wins, extend their unbeaten run and record a fifth successive clean sheet, with Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne looking solid in central defence.

"These two complement each other," Trapattoni said.

"They work very well together. They can sense the ball."

The Italian did acknowledge his side would need to be more incisive in attack in the home game against Slovakia and away clash with Russia, where Ireland will be taking on the two teams they are currently locked together with at the top of Group B on 13 points.

Croatia boss Slaven Bilic admits the Republic have a tough task ahead of them.

"I wish them luck, but it is going to be hard," Bilic said.

"To be honest, I would prefer it the other way round, to play Russia at home and Slovakia away.

"Slovakia can defend deep and well, and are good on counter-breaks. But here (at the Aviva Stadium) Ireland have a chance against any team."

Ireland captain Robbie Keane felt the fixture was a good way to warm up for the qualifiers.

"It was a good game for both teams - more from a fitness point of view," Keane told www.fai.ie.

"People question these games, but it's about preparation for the next game, the qualifier against Slovakia in a few weeks' time. The main aim was to concentrate on that."

Trapattoni today named his provisional 32-man squad for the September qualifiers and has stuck with the same group of players that he called up for the Croatia game.

Kevin Doyle has been included again, although Trapattoni said last night he was unsure whether the Wolves striker - who was ruled out of last night's friendly on Tuesday due to his knee problem - would be ready for the Slovakia and Russia matches.

Jon Walters, Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, Damien Delaney, Seamus Coleman, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey, Aiden McGeady and John O'Shea, all of whom also withdrew from the last squad, are back in as well.

Squad: Given (Aston Villa), Westwood (Sunderland), Forde (Millwall), O'Shea (Sunderland), Coleman (Everton), McShane (Hull), Foley (Wolves), Kelly (Fulham), Ward (Wolves), Dunne (Aston Villa), Clark (Aston Villa), Kilbane (Hull), St Ledger (Leicester), O'Dea (Celtic), Delaney (Ipswich), Gibson (Man Utd), Whelan (Stoke), Andrews (Blackburn), Fahey (Birmingham), Keogh (Wolves), Duff (Fulham), McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Hunt (Wolves), Lawrence (Portsmouth), McCarthy (Wigan), Treacy (Burnley), Wilson (Stoke), Keane (Tottenham), Doyle (Wolves), Walters (Stoke), Long (West Brom), Cox (West Brom).

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