Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Italy Ready to Forgive Should Trap Triumph; Ireland Coach Will Still Be Loved in His Homeland Even If He Dents Qualifying Hopes, According to Compatriot Zola. by James Masters

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Italy Ready to Forgive Should Trap Triumph; Ireland Coach Will Still Be Loved in His Homeland Even If He Dents Qualifying Hopes, According to Compatriot Zola. by James Masters

Article excerpt

Byline: James Masters

GIANFRANCO ZOLA says Giovanni Trapattoni will remain a 'national icon' in Italy even if his Ireland team inflict damage on the Azzurri's World Cup qualifying campaign this weekend.

The 70-year-old, who was recently handed a new contract until 2012 by the Football Association of Ireland, is still revered in Italy following his stunning achievements with both Juventus and Inter Milan.

Now he has transformed a side that were regularly humiliated during Steve Staunton's ill-fated reign. If Ireland beat Italy at Croke Park tomorrow, they will be only a point behind their rivals at the top of Group Eight with one game left to play next Wednesday.

The Irish, who have not reached the finals of a major tournament since 2002, have Montenegro at home in their final match while Italy play host to Cyprus.

Former Italy striker Zola said: "Trapattoni is an icon in Italy and for all those who love football. He is very similar to the late Sir Bobby Robson because he is loved and also he knows how to get the most out of his players.

"He represents the best football we had in the 1980s and 1990s and he is still at the top of his game.

"I am not surprised he has done well with Ireland and it's good they've given him a new deal.

"It's a massive game. There is a lot of focus on the national team because we know there is a lot of pressure. The Italians know it will be tough. They respect Ireland a lot and they will be focused."

Ireland will be without injured Fulham midfielder Damien Duff and Manchester City's stay-away midfielder Stephen Ireland for the match.

In their previous meeting last April, Robbie Keane's late strike ensured Ireland escaped from Bari with a 1-1 draw and Zola believes the Tottenham captain will again provide the biggest threat to the world champions. …

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