Italy manager Cesare Prandelli yesterday spoke of how he had hoped to avoid drawing Ireland in the group stage of Euro 2012, due to his fear of pitting his wits against his mentor, Trapattoni.
“It is a very difficult group and we didn’t want to meet Trapattoni for many reasons,” said the Italian chief yesterday.
“I have no problem playing against Spain or Germany or Holland. My problem is Ireland because of Trap.
“Please, please, I said, I don’t want to play against him. I don’t want to play against the maestro. He is my teacher. Almost everything I’ve learned in football, I learned it from him.
“I like to speak with him, to learn from him and to eat with him, but not to play against him. I really did not want to be drawn against Ireland.”
Croatia manager Slaven Bilic was a little more positive about playing Ireland. Bilic saw his team held 0-0 in Dublin by Trap’s Ireland earlier this year in a friendly and the Croatians showcased their technical ability.
The 43-year old is one of the youngest managers in international football, and the former West Ham and Everton defender can’t wait to pit his wits against the more experienced European coaches.
“It is a tough group,” Bilic conceded.
“I am privileged to be among those generals of football. Among the people who created the history of the game. I can’t wait to play against them. We’re going to give everything.
“We are looking forward. We have real possibilities and a real chance to pass the group stage.”
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque was less dramatic than Prandelli in his assessment of Ireland and Trap, unsurprisingly, considering the wealth of talent at his disposal.
Remembering when the teams met nearly a decade ago in 2002, del Bosque has urged Spain to be professional in their approach to the Irish game.
“I remember in 2002 we were winning 1-0 and in the last minute Niall Quinn won a penalty from which Ireland equalised. And we could have lost the game in extra-time before winning on penalties,” he said.
“They will be a difficult rival. Can Ireland cause a shock? Of course. They will be well prepared and you can’t say that they are an inferior rival because this isn’t the case.”
When asked about Trap’s style of play, which is likely to be ultra-defensive against the Spaniards, del Bosque wasn’t at all disparaging, but emphasised his belief in his players’ ability.
He said: “It’s a strong national team. We must think they are as worthy a rival as the others. I have no problems with Ireland’s style, and we’re not going to change ours because of the players we have.”