Giovanni Trapattoni has vowed to make up for past disappointments when he returns to the big stage with Ireland in Poland this Sunday.
Trapattoni experienced bad luck, bad refereeing decisions and bad fortune as Italian manager at both the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 European Championships.
He has won everything there is to win as a club boss, but feels he has unfinished business at international level ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2012 opener against Croatia in Poznan.
Now 73, Trapattoni told Irish Sun on Sunday, “It’s okay to say, ‘I did well’ but you must continue to do well. At home, I have all of the awards that I won on the wall in my office but it doesn’t matter.
“It’s the next games which matter. You can write a great article but that’s not enough. You must do it again tomorrow and again the next day.
“People say I belong to the past. That’s life but I can tell you that I know more and more. I have improved from 10 years ago and certainly from the time when I had players like Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek.
“I have shown that it is possible to win without these big players but with other players. A newspaper can sell without having the best reporters and this is our team.
“I have improved, improved and improved some more. I know more now and I continue to discover new things, the little details, which help this team.
“And I’m still hungry about what I can achieve. Sometimes I watch games in England and I think, why is it not possible for managers to understand this when I see something happening.
“And it’s not just the young managers I think this about, the old ones too. You must have 360-degree vision as manager so you see everything and learn from it.”
Trapattoni insisted in the interview that even he is still learning and still takes great pleasure from his job.
He added, “This is what I do, this is my job. Have I changed Irish football? No.
“The players learn different things at their clubs and some of them change club more often than the wind changes direction.
“What I do is teach them something different and show them what else they can do. For example, I have had great satisfaction working with a player like James McClean.
“He or any other player can’t ever say I don’t show them what to do. I do.”
The Italian is also delighted that qualification for the Euros has repaid the FAI’s faith in him.
He said, “I am happy because I have repaid those who had belief in me. They thought I could do a good job and it has gone well.
“We deserved to qualify for the World Cup, it did not happen because of a strange situation and we deserved to qualify this time.”
Asked about Ireland’s chances this summer, he declared, “Anything can happen. In 1992 Denmark were on holiday and they got called back when a team could not play in the tournament and they won.
“In the Champions League final, Chelsea were missing important players and Bayern Munich. Would you bet on Chelsea or Bayern? Bayern of course but Chelsea won.
“There is the moment when a team can be close to their optimum level, at 99% and special things can happen.
“I think we were at that level when we played in Paris. We did not lose because we weren’t good enough. The France coach Raymond Domenech said to me, ‘Giovanni, this is football.’
“Bad things can happen but we showed our capabilities in that game and we can show them again. It’s not a question for us of dreaming but believing in what we can do.
“Perhaps we will be underestimated by the opposition. That’s OK, maybe it’s a good thing for us. But I have been a coach for more than 30 years and I know we’re a good team with a solid base and I know we can do well.”
A Good Run
Ireland are now just three games short of a record run of 17 matches unbeaten achieved during the Jack Charlton era – and they would achieve that at the Euros.
Wins or draws against Croatia, Spain and Italy in the group games would extend the current run to 17 after Monday night’s scoreless draw in Hungary.
Defender John O’Shea, fit again after recent ankle problems, told the Irish Sun, “It’s a piece of cake! It’ll be no problem to us, just stay unbeaten in the group!
“It would be a fantastic way to do it and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. We’ve talked about the belief the team has, the squad has and the belief that the manager has given us as well.
“The run is something we’re proud of, obviously, but we know as well that we’re going to have to take our chances. We had a little bit of luck defensively against Hungary and we’re going to have to take our chances, too.”
After missing out at the 2002 World Cup despite late calls for his inclusion in Mick McCarthy’s squad, O’Shea can’t wait for the big kick-off on Sunday.
The Waterford born defender said: “It’s obviously going to be very important for me personally to be playing in a major tournament, but first and foremost it’s all about the team.
“We’ve got a tough group but one we’re capable of getting through and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“Look, there’s probably going to be a few more twists and turns yet before the start of the group stage, so we’ll need to keep everyone wrapped up for the next couple of days, recover and then look forward.
“Teams are going to cause each other problems and it’s how you cope with those problems which will determine who goes through and who doesn’t.”
Ireland wrapped up their Euro preparations with a scoreless draw away to Hungary in Budapest on Monday night, a result even manager Giovanni Trapattoni admitted they were lucky to get away with.
Goalkeeper Shay Given and second half replacement Kieren Westwood made crucial saves as Hungary’s youngsters ran Ireland ragged at times.
Simon Cox might have sprung a late winner for the visitors, but Trapattoni acknowledged afterwards that their five man midfield caused his team real problems in front of watching Croatian manager Slaven Bilic.
That explains why the Ireland boss is talking about a u-turn from his beloved 4-4-2 formation ahead of the opening match at Euro 2012 against Croatia in Poznan on Sunday.
“I think this evening we have been a bit lucky because in the first half the opponent deserved to score a minimum of two goals. It was only our goalkeeper Shay Given that saved us,” admitted Trap.
“Hungary played very well and quick, fast football. They are strong in every section. When we meet a team like this I know what is the difficulty, but we have a system I can’t change for one game or the other game.
“To have a balance we have to give up one striker or put one more in midfield. In the past I know this position. I know this line up.”
Monday night’s game saw Ireland extend their unbeaten run to 14 games, but they were fortunate not to concede.
Trap added, “For Irish reporters it will be clear that when we play against a team with one striker and others behind we have too much difficulty.
“To have a better balance we may have to play with only one striker and have one more in midfield. I will speak to the team.”
The one bonus for the Irish boss was that his players came through Monday’s encounter without any injury problems despite the incessant rain and difficult conditions.
“I thank God that we have no injury problems,” said Trapattoni.
Ireland winger Aiden McGeady has pleaded with manager Giovanni Trapattoni to lower the intensity of training ahead of Sunday’s Euro opener against Croatia.
McGeady told Irish state broadcaster RTE that the team felt tired during Monday night’s scoreless draw with Hungary in Budapest.
Speaking as the Ireland squad arrived in Poland ahead of the opening match against the Croatians in Poznan, McGeady admitted a tough training program had taken its toll.
He said, “Training has been of such a high intensity that I think a lot of the players felt a bit jaded.
“A lot of the players were saying that at halftime, that they felt pretty sluggish in their feet. I think that was the overwhelming factor in the first half.
“In the second half we picked it up a bit. I think we need to take it easy on training.”
Ireland had to wait for almost 40 minutes in the tunnel on Monday night as the kick-off was delayed due to heavy rain and thunder and lightning storms over the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest.
Captain Robbie Keane said, “It was just a bit of a shame -- the delay before kick-off killed the rhythm of the game, to be honest with you.
“It took you a while to get your breath because standing in the tunnel for half an hour or 40 minutes before we kick off wasn’t ideal preparation, but it’s one of those things.
“I think we knew it eventually it was going to be played, but the longer you are standing around. I think the ref should have given us probably five minutes or something like that to do a little warm-up.
“We went straight from standing for 40 minutes basically straight to kick-off, which is usually unheard of.”