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Irish coach Marco Tardelli has warned his World Cup hopefuls that they will need to be on full alert for the two legs of their playoff against France.
The French come to Croke Park on Saturday night and welcome the Irish to Paris the following Wednesday, with a place in the South African finals on offer to the winners.
French coach Raymond Domenech is highly unpopular at home after again leaving Patrick Vieira out of his squad, but Tardelli refuses to read anything into tales of unrest and a breakdown in communications between Domenech and his star players.
“Is it like mutiny on the bounty?” asked Giovanni Trapattoni’s right hand man when he spoke to Star Sunday last weekend.
“I don’t think so. The French team is going to be very, very hard to play against and they will want to play a big game against Ireland.
“If anything I believe they are embarrassed to have arrived second in their qualifying group and to be playing against Ireland now.
“They have great players at the best clubs in England and in Europe. They are in the top clubs and the top leagues, the likes of Henry at Barcelona and Anelka and Malouda at Chelsea.
“They do not want to be in the playoffs and they will look to play a big game against Ireland. We know that.”
Just like his gaffer Trapattoni, Tardelli will urge the Irish players to pay attention to detail against the French aristocrats.
“We need to prepare everything very well for this game, especially the little details,” said Tardelli.
“It will be possible to win this match with a little detail just as it was possible for Italy to draw in Croke Park because we did not pay attention to the little details after our second goal.
“The French are very crafty and we will need to pay attention in this match and for all this match. That is going to be very important because the French have better individual players than the Italians, even if they do not play like a better team.”
Ireland will look to win the home leg next Saturday according to Tardelli -- but a clean sheet at Croke Park will be almost as important in the greater scheme of things.
“It is also important to keep them scoreless in Dublin because one goal maybe means two goals in case of a draw,” added Tardelli.
“We will be looking to win, maybe 1-0 and take a goal to Paris, and not to concede a goal. The French team is well capable of conceding a goal away then bouncing back at home, so we need to be careful.”
Meanwhile, the last Irish manager to beat France in a World Cup qualifier wants the current generation to avoid the scars of ’81 and make it to South Africa.
Eoin Hand was in charge when Ireland and Liam Brady famously beat France and Michel Platini 3-1 at Lansdowne Road all of 28 years ago.
That Irish team subsequently missed out on the 1982 World Cup in Spain on goal difference as France hammered Cyprus 4-0 in their final game.
So Hand knows well what the Irish players will go through if they fail to make next summer’s finals, just as Brady, Mark Lawrenson, Seamus McDonagh and Frank Stapleton missed out on Spain.
“It is an awful pity that the Irish team that beat France that day didn’t get to show its wares at a World Cup finals,” Hand told Star Sunday as he launched his After the Ball charity CD in time for the Christmas market.
“We were in a group with Belgium and France who went through and with the Dutch who finished below us and we only missed out on goal difference.
“It was a tragedy for many of those players who weren’t around when we got to the 1990 finals in Italy just as this might be the last World Cup chance for some of the players who will play against the French in the next two games.
“If they realise that I don’t think we will be left wanting for effort.”
Hand, who survived a close brush with death after a serious illness in 1997, refuses to brand his World Cup disappointment as unlucky.
He’s happy just to get up every morning and will be forever grateful for his own French memories.
“The win at Lansdowne was the highlight of my managerial career and my favourite memory from all my time as manager because that French side went on to win the 1984 Europeans,” he added.