Trapattoni yet to make a final decision


Giovanni Trapattoni has yet to make up his mind who to deploy on the right flank against France at Croke Park tomorrow night, with either Liam Lawrence and Aiden McGeady waiting eagerly in the wings.

The Republic of Ireland manager finalised the rest of his selection for the World Cup qualifier a short time ago but remains undecided on who will start on the right side of midfield.

Acknowledging the different qualities both Lawrence and McGeady bring to the party, Trapattoni said he would name his final team shortly before tomorrow’s 8pm kick-off.

Elsewhere, there were few surprises with the bulk of the side the same as that which started against Italy last month.

A back four of John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne and Kevin Kilbane will line up ahead of keeper Shay Given, while Damien Duff will start on the left side of midfield with Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews in the middle.

Kevin Doyle will partner skipper Robbie Keane in attack.

Trapattoni has challenged his players to raise their game another notch if they are to qualify for next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa. The Republic have already defied the odds to finish second in Group 8 after giving reigning champions Italy a major scare.

However, their 70-year-old manager has warned his team they will need to shift into another gear if they are to complete the job by springing a shock in the play-offs.

Trapattoni said: "We need the same spirit, we need the same performance, we need the attitude we have had in the games throughout qualification - but we have to add some more.

"Every player must in these 180 minutes add something more to his performance. We must avoid nervousness. These are important games and, in important games, in my experience, some players can lose their cool.

"They have to keep their heads and play as we have done until now and, with this mentality, we can play on an equal footing with France. For us, these games are the final of the World Cup, qualification or not."

The French will go into Saturday night's first leg as hot favourites but there is a belief within the home camp their time has come.

Not since they dumped the Netherlands out of the same competition in 2001 have Ireland beaten one of Europe's big boys but it was noticeable Trapattoni did not resort to the David and Goliath metaphor he employed ahead of both qualifiers against his native country as he assessed their chances this time around.

He said: "It's important we believe in our performance, our mentality, our balance, our spirit. This is our strength."

Trapattoni was in relaxed mood as he conducted his pre-match press conference in a packed suite at the Grand Hotel in Malahide.

He opened by enquiring, with a smile, where the French journalists were in the room and, after a show of hands, said apologetically: "I don't speak French," before adding: "I don't speak also English."

But, despite his humour, the message was clear as he contemplated the task ahead of his players. Trapattoni said: "In the past few days, we have said many words, many things, about this game. Now we must move from words to action and put into practice what we have said."

Republic of Ireland (v France):Shay Given; John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Kevin Kilbane; Aiden McGeady/Liam Lawrence, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff; Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle