Ireland v Cyprus is a crucial game for manager Trappatoni
Three points from the game against the Cypriots could virtually guarantee second place
The players and the manager have been keen to talk down the significance of that humiliation in October of 2006 but trust me, one of the worst results in the history of Irish football has a major relevance to this fixture.
Cyprus regard that win as one of their finest moments ever in international sport, and so they should. The Ireland players who played that night regard it as the low point of their international careers, as well they should.
Already this week the likes of Kevin Kilbane, who played in that game, and Shay Given, who didn’t, have tried to dismiss the theory that revenge will be a factor come Saturday night, but it has to be.
The 5-2 reversal last time out was the beginning of the end for Steve Staunton’s reign as manager, and the beginning of the end for the team’s hopes of qualification for Euro 2008. Paddy Kenny, Andy O’Brien and Clinton Morrison haven’t kicked a ball for Ireland since that fateful night, so the players know exactly what’s at stake this weekend.
Defeat this Saturday wouldn’t spell the end of our World Cup hopes, but it wouldn’t do them any favors either.
An Ireland win can send a huge message of intent in the direction of South Africa with the revenge factor a little extra sweetener for Robbie Keane, et al.
All of which makes this the biggest game of the Trapattoni era -– again!
St. Ledger doubtful for Cyprus
SEAN St. Ledger is a major injury doubt for Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Cyprus on Saturday after he picked up a knee injury on club duty with Preston last weekend.
Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni is awaiting a full assessment of St. Ledger’s fitness before he makes a final decision on the player’s chances of partnering new Aston Villa signing Richard Dunne in Nicosia.
Trapattoni has reported no other injury problems ahead of Thursday's departure for the Mediterranean island.
Meanwhile, Shay Given has urged his Irish teammates not to let history repeat itself in Nicosia on Saturday night as Ireland look for revenge against Cyprus.
Given was a frustrated television spectator back home on Tyneside when Steve Staunton’s Ireland were humiliated in a 5-2 defeat to the Cypriots three years ago next month.
The then Newcastle United ‘keeper missed that game through injury and wanted to hide his head in shame as he watched the drama unfold on a big screen at his local Irish club.
But Given is confident that lightning will not strike twice this weekend when an Irish win will keep the pressure on Group Eight leaders Italy and all but guarantee a place in the playoffs.
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