DUBLIN (AFP) - Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni kept the door open for the selection of Stephen Ireland and Andy Reid after a listless draw against Montenegro brought an end to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
With a play-off place already assured, the charismatic Italian had little to say about a game in which his team fashioned few chances against a Montenegro team deprived of its two best players.
Instead, he looked forward to next month's play-offs insisting he held no grudges against Reid who he has rarely selected and Ireland who refuses to make himself available.
"Never say never whether it is Andy Reid or Stephen Ireland. I really don't have anything against these players. I could meet them tomorrow and they may come back tomorrow," said Trapattoni.
However, he hinted at his views on both players.
While not naming Ireland, he said it was "strange" that a player would not want to play for his national team. And he appeared to refer to Reid's reputation for poor fitness levels when stressing that he expected players to run hard for 90 minutes.
Speaking briefly about the game, Trapattoni said that despite the weaker second-half performance his team were the only one who deserved victory.
"I thought we deserved to score a goal because in the first 45 minutes we dominated. Over the 90 minutes we were the better team," he said.
But his focus was clearly on the play-offs next month.
He expressed his concern about the seeding arrangements which means Ireland are likely to be drawn against one of Europe's top teams next Monday.
"We will speak about why this draw is like this in Zurich. We deserve respect like the other important, great countries. We should all be the same but we are Ireland, a small nation."
His team could be drawn against France, Portugal, Greece or Russia; and while expressing concern about playing in Moscow in winter, he said his team would not fear any opponent.
He again insisted his team was still in development and that their mentality would be the crucial factor over the two legs.
"We are really aware of what we have to build with this team and what we did build with new players and young players. We must believe in our mentality, our performance, our scheme.
"It is really important that this team has believed and have listened to my words. When I came we were a team that disappointed. But we built a new team with new players and young players.
"With super players it is not enough. They can create but against the team with the best mentality it is the team with the best mentality that is the winner. The show is not important it is the result that matters.
"At the moment we have not achieved first position but we are still in the running. I think the psychology of our situation is that the glass is full not half empty.
"When Ireland was a winning team in the past, they had a strong mentality and had players that would cut you in half. Players like Roy Keane, they were strong physically but also in character. And we need to build this in our team."
An injury to Martin Rowlands cast a shadow across the game after he caught his foot in the Croke Park turf and was stretchered off.
"Martin has a cruciate knee injury - it is only the first examination but it looks serious. It is a shame he has only come back from a long injury and he was good enough to put in the team," Trapattoni said.
|S. St. Ledger|
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