SEPP BLATTER would do well to watch out.
Giovanni Trapattoni is still miffed with FIFAs decision to seed the eight teams for Mondays World Cup play-off draw and he intends to make those feelings known to the governing bodys suits in Switzerland.
“I will speak with UEFA in Zurich about why the draw is like this because we should all be the same, independent of how many million people live there,” the Ireland manager said last night.
“Ill try not to have a fight with Blatter,” he added.
Fighting talk but whats done is done and it is on the pitch where Irelands immediate future will be decided next month.
Our next opponents will be one of Russia, Portugal, Greece and France. Trapattoni will have his preferences but he wasnt sharing them last night. “I believe in bad luck so I dont want to say. I dont want to jinx myself. I just want us to win but I dont like the artificial pitch in Russia.”
As expected, it was far from electric on the pitch last night but Ireland werent alone in their lethargy among nations whose fates had already been sealed prior to the evenings entertainment.
The ennui stretched across the continent of Europe. Italys second string had to come from two goals down to scrape a win against Cyprus while Germany needed an injury-time equaliser against the visiting Finns.
“If a team deserved to win after 90 minutes, that team was Ireland,” said Trapattoni.
Stephen Hunt was, officially, Irelands best player. The Hull City player spoke earlier in the week about how he has been working on his deliveries for the last 18 months and it shows.
It was his free-kick which Richard Dunne nodded against the Montenegran crossbar shortly before the interval and, though he is far from the complete player, his touch seems to have improved in that same time span.
With Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence also vying for the two wide slots, Hunts performance last night, added to his cameo last Saturday, have given him a fighting chance of starting in the play-offs next month.
"Six or seven players did well. Hunt, maybe he is not creative like Duff, but his job is very important. I didnt want to risk Kevin Doyle. I was trying not to play them too much, like John OShea.
"I always break my players balls. I am never satisfied with a draw. You can ask any of other great champions I had on my teams in the past but we were aware of what we had to do with this team.
“We must believe in our mentality and our performance.”
That mentality, he believes, can serve Ireland well in the next two fixtures.
"There are games that are beautiful and games that are not but its not about always playing well. In the play-offs we dont have to think about the name of our opponent, but how we played against Italy and Bulgaria and Montenegro.
"We can go into the play-offs with this belief. Our results have all been achieved with our heart and a willingness to get the result. Im very happy with how the players are taking in my words and its really important that this team has believed in me from the beginning.
"Ireland in the past was a team with character and I want this for my team. Though he said the glass was half-full, he added a note of caution too.
"Italy have four or five strikers, or even six or seven. We are Ireland, we have four million people. We have no league in Ireland. This nation has this group of players and we pray to God that they dont get injured.
“That is the situation. If Robbie Keane is injured, who will play?I dont really have anything against those players and it might even be they come back tomorrow, I might need them” He embarks on the next stage with the backing and best wishes of his Montenegro counterpart Zoran Filipovic who described the Irish supporters as the best in Europe.
“You have a very strong team with good players. Good physically and tactically. They fight for the ball. I would like Ireland to go to the World Cup because of their supporters. They would bring thousands and thousands of people to South Africa and I wish them the best of luck in their attempts to qualify.”