Poland would be top draw for Ireland


EURO 2012 DRAW:FOR A man who insists he has no wish-list ahead of this evening’s draw for the finals of the European Championships, Giovanni Trapattoni touched down in Kiev last night citing a list of nations he’d prefer the Republic of Ireland not to meet next summer that included virtually every country in the top two tier of seeds.

To judge by his recent run of good luck, he may well have the gods on his side when the coloured balls start being drawn (around 5pm Irish time).

About the only two he didn’t get around to mentioning as teams to avoid are the Netherlands and Russia. The former scored 37 goals in 10 qualifying games and only dropped points after they were certain of top spot in their group, while Russia took four points from two qualifying games against Ireland and would have made that six, but for a rearguard action in Moscow that was as desperate as it was determined. It might well be, of course, the pair simply slipped his mind.

John Delaney’s aspirations for today are, he suggested, a little more straightforward. The association’s chief executive is hoping Ireland avoid England as the prospect of a group encounter with Fabio Capello’s men would almost certainly scupper any chance of the lucrative friendly game in Dublin he hopes will be played in February or, more likely, May/June.

“I’d like to have the friendly sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’d be looking at May (if February is unavailable), but if we draw them that’s out. It would be great to have England in Dublin before we go, but if we get ’em, we get ’em. And I don’t think it would be realistic to play them in August if we played them at the Euros.”

Both men are coy even when pressed about who they really would like to draw and each is anxious to avoid being seen to show any disrespect to the two host nations, either of whom would generally be seen as being far less challenging opponents than the other top seeds, Spain and the Netherlands.

Trapattoni points to the success of South Korea over his Italy side in 2002 and the triumph by France on home soil back in 1998 as evidence that sometimes the pressure brought to bear by their supporters pushes teams “to go that little bit further. I’ve had problems with that in the past.”

From a logistics point of view, though, both men agree Poland is the place to be sent.

“Our supporters would certainly be thrilled with that,” says Delaney, who says work on finalising locations for a pretournament training camp – most likely in Germany, Austria or Portugal, as well as a tournament – northern Poland apparently being the preference – will be accelerated as soon as matters are clarified this afternoon.

“To be fair, I don’t think Trapattoni is too bothered who we get, but I think for the supporters to be based in Poland would be great.”

As for the alternative, he says: “It wouldn’t be easy for anyone. We hear the infrastructure and hotels certainly aren’t as good here as they are in Poland. Our guys who have been out to assess both countries feel it would be better to be based in Poland.”

That being the case then the reality is Group A would be the prize draw from an Irish perspective. It would mean getting Poland as top seeds rather than Spain or the Netherlands, playing all three group games in one place – Wroclaw – and avoiding a long trip to Ukraine even in the quarter-finals in the event that the team was to progress.

Getting the other host nation would be the next best thing from a competitive point of view but the logistics of it – games in Donetsk either side of one here in Kiev – are not nearly so straightforward, especially as the association seems inclined to avail of Uefa grants intended to cover the additional cost of being based in Poland, but flying in and out for games across the border if the situation arises.

Given the amount of money already up for grabs it seems a generous gesture by the organisers.

Prize-money has soared since the Irish were last at a major championship and while the eventual profit the FAI will make on participation will depend on a number of factors, Delaney is confident it will upwards of €4 million this time around.

“Well it’s €8 million gross for getting there and there’s obviously bonuses in our contracts with our sponsors,” he says. “There’ll be a couple of big friendlies which are helpful, especially if we had two in May. And then you get half a million if you get a draw and a million if you get a win. Get to the quarter-finals and it’s two million.

“When you take out the cost of being out here, bonuses for players – which we haven’t even discussed yet, to be fair – certainly there’s a €4 million net profit out of the whole tournament to start with, before friendlies or bonuses for drawing or winning.”

How many of the latter there might be we will be in a better position to estimate around teatime today.