Giovanni Trapattoni has insisted his team can win in Russia – but they’ll have to do it without West Brom striker Shane Long.
The Tipperary native will get to watch his beloved county play in the All-Ireland hurling final against Kilkenny on Sunday after all.
Long has been forced off the Ireland team’s flight to Moscow with the calf injury that kept him out of Friday night’s scoreless draw with Slovakia – after he was named in the team.
The 24-year-old striker was unable to train with the Irish team in Malahide on Saturday after scans showed blood spots on his injured calf.
“I am not going to try and make Shane Long recover, he is the same as he was before the Slovakia game,” said Trapattoni.
“He can’t explain the injury. He doesn’t know what happened. Maybe it was a knock, maybe it is the result of a hamstring problem.
“I have to think now about the other strikers. We have Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle and Simon Cox. We have enough strikers.
“Robbie took a knock to his back in the Slovakia game but he will be okay for Tuesday. Also John O’Shea and Stephen Hunt who picked up knocks on Friday night. They will be grand.”
Ireland, now second in the Group B table and two points behind Russia, badly need to take three points on the plastic pitch in the Lushniki Stadion on Tuesday night.
Only three teams have won in Russia since 2000 – Germany, Slovakia and Israel – but Trapattoni remains confident.
“It is possible to win there, we must play to win,” insisted the Italian who also confirmed he will stick with a 4-4-2 formation in Moscow.
“The players are a little disappointed after Friday night but I told them they must be over that when we fly out.
“We have to be positive. We have to score. There is no panic. We will go there with the same approach. I am confident.”
Leeds United defender Darren O’Dea is the favourite to replace the suspended Sean St Ledger on the plastic pitch in Moscow.
“When I was in Austria with Salzburg we had a plastic pitch, it is the same for both teams,” insisted the Ireland boss.
“It is not like grass but many of the Russian players play abroad and they are not used to it either.”
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks