Reuters Soccer Blog
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Giovanni Trapattoni may have cause to regret his decision to leave Sunderland playmaker Andy Reid out in the cold when Ireland face France on Saturday and next Wednesday in their two-legged World Cup play-off.
Reid has been in sparkling form for his club this season in the Premier League, notching some fantastic goals, notably from free-kicks — an area Ireland need to improve on with the exception of Glenn Whelan’s thunderbolts from long range.
He has a range of passing that can unlock the best defences in the world and Ireland will need somebody with that capability against the more-fancied French at Croke Park and Stade de France over the next week.
But the Dubliner has been overlooked by Trapattoni ever since he fell out with the wily, no-nonsense Italian a year ago in the team’s hotel bar in the German city of Wiesbaden after Ireland’s qualifier with Georgia.
Draw for the European World Cup playoffs:
Republic of Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia
Two-legged ties to be played on Nov 14 and 18.
Is that the sound of a World Cup playoff shock I hear? France, 2006 runners-up, will have to beat Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland over two legs to reach South Africa next year and that is no easy feat.
So now we know which European teams are in the World Cup playoffs and we have a pretty good idea of the seedings, though FIFA’s updated rankings out at the end of the week will provide confirmation ahead of Monday’s draw.
It looks like Russia, France, Greece and Portugal will be the seeded teams with Ukraine, Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia playing them. After Argentina’s qualification in the final match against Uruguay, it looks increasingly likely that all the big teams will be there in South Africa.
Marco Tardelli is famous for that crazy goal celebration as Italy won the 1982 World Cup.
He loves his country so much that he is ready to whisper the Italian national anthem at Bari on Wednesday despite the fact he is now assistant coach to Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
It may prove difficult to switch a nation’s sporting focus from rugby to football, especially one that is basking in the glory of a first rugby grand slam in 61 years, but a wave of good fortune is boosting hopes of Ireland featuring at the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.
Guided by the mercurial talents of Italian Giovanni Trapattoni, the Irish have made a solid, undefeated start to a tricky qualifying group containing World champions Italy, Dimitar Berbatov’s Bulgaria, Cyprus – who beat them 5-2 in Euro 2008 qualifying - and a skilful Montenegro.