Ireland v Cyprus is a crucial game for manager Trappatoni
Three points from the game against the Cypriots could virtually guarantee second place
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.
“It is a massive fixture with a huge reward at the end of it if we can win it and set ourselves up for Italy and Montenegro next month with the World Cup finals as the reward for winning all three games,” said Given.
“Cyprus are first up and they will be hard to beat as Italy know when Buffon was their man of the match over there and they won the game in the last minute but I don’t think Cyprus are our bogey team.
“They are a decent side as we know but we just have to be better than them on the night and set ourselves up for those final two fixtures in Croke Park.
“They are a good team but we were very poor on the night. A lot of people performed below par and it was a bad night to be involved with the Irish team.
“It left a scar but that won’t help us this game nor should it simply because we know what is at stake now as regards this fixture in its own right.”
Nicosia veteran Kevin Kilbane has also warned his Irish teammates not to underestimate Cyprus as he looks to banish the memories of that fateful night.
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