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Monday, 19 October 2009

Republic of Ireland Can Put FIFA Noses Out Of Joint

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We all want to see the best players at World Cup Finals but unfortunately you can't have everything in life- George Best, Ryan Giggs and George Weah are just three superstars who never made it to the big jamboree.

FIFA like to have as much of their cake as possible though, so outrageously they decided to change the rules for the European play -off ties next month. Faced with Portugal (with one C Ronaldo) and France (Ribery, Henry et al) missing out, they came up with the idea of seeding the eight competitors.

So France and Portugal avoid each other and the unwanted trip to a confident Russia. Portugal got Bosnia/Herzegovina in the draw - maybe FIFA are happy with their manipulation but the Bosnians just might upset the applecart and will certainly be fired up after an excellent qualifying campaign

Giovanni Trappatoni might just fancy his team's chances against France, who have been none too clever under Raymond Domenech in this campaign. Ever since the 2002 World Cup France have been trading on past reputations- the run to the 2006 World Cup Final was both an exception and a last hurrah for Zinedine Zidane.

The Republic of Ireland are now the sort of battle-hardened outfit that no one wants to come up against.Pretty it isn't but Trappatoni sides are always effective and make the opposition work for everything.

Its not good for a talented but occasionally wayward, player like Andy Reid, but Trap's preferred eleven know what they are about and have absolute confidence in their manager. The pressure in this two-leg tie is all on the French.

Les Bleus have top striking talent- Henry, Benzema, Ribery, Gouvou etc but the defence is nowhere near as imposing. They are decently served at full back but Gallas, Squillaci, Fanni and possibly Abidal aren't the highest quality centre backs.

In a tactical batle no one would expect the eccentric Domenech to outfox the wily Trappatoni, so there are strong grounds for Irish optimism and the blatent FIFA gerrymandering has made the Italian's pre-match team talk an easy one.

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Hugh Larkin



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