IrelandWorld Soccer: How far can Ireland go? Many critics would say your team will be eliminated from a group that includes Spain and Italy… 

Giovanni Trapattoni: Everything is possible, even getting out of the first round. We’ve got to believe in ourselves. We have the right mentality and enthusiasm. I’m always telling people, when you get close to Ireland you can smell the team spirit.

Obviously, Spain seem unbeatable at the moment, this really is a David versus Goliath match, we’re up against a giant here. However, one of my favourite sayings is “mai dire mai” – never say never.

What are the major qualities you have brought to Ireland?

I have given them balance, an equilibrium, and I have underlined that all 11 players attack and defend, without necessarily expecting to play well. That way you form a winning mentality. Did you ever wonder why certain strikers no longer form part of the squad set-up? Because they would lose the ball and then stand around and watch. But you’ve got to chase back.

How are you personally preparing for Euro 2012?

As of now, I spend all my time watching DVDs of Spain, Croatia and Italy, looking at the tactical approach and what I can do. I have seen all of the games – home and away – of the teams we will play. Every little detail – free-kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, how they start the game – is important for us and will be important in the games in June. I have to make sure that the team is 100 per cent prepared for every little detail. I cannot think after the game: “I didn’t know they would do this.” I need to know everything about their players
and their team.

How big a worry is it that some of your players regularly end up on the bench at their club sides?

I’m only worried about injuries, I’m not worried if two or three players do not play for their clubs. Once they join us in May, after three or four days they will be fine and they will be ready. It is better that they are not tired and that they are fresh. I am not worried if they miss three or four games, it’s not a problem for us. We have a week to prepare in Dublin, and then time in Italy and Hungary.

One of your key defenders, Richard Dunne, could miss the finals because of a shoulder injury…

Obviously we have to wait and see, but I am optimistic about Dunne. I understand that the recovery from his operation is going well.

You are under a lot of pressure to name younger players such as James McLean of Sunderland, James McCarthy of Wigan Athletic and Seamus Coleman of Everton in your squad. What will your criterion be?

We have 27 or 28 players and it will be a great pity, a great pity, when we have to decide on the 23 because of the players who have to miss out. The squad is very important to me and they all deserve to be at the finals, they helped us achieve qualification, but I have to decide which of them deserve to come with us. I have two or three decisions to make and it’s never easy. McCarthy, Coleman, players like that, I will certainly not forget them for the next campaign, for the World Cup, but at the moment I must know what is best for this tournament. I have said that it is important to give a chance to the players who helped us achieve qualification, but it is also important to leave one or two spaces for the new group, the next generation.

How will Ireland fare at Euro 2012?

I go back to what I said about having to play guys who spend a lot of time on the bench at their club. I have learned to trust these guys, to trust in their immense pride. Add to that the fact many of them are excellent players, then add on good organisation and the Irish mentality, and you can go a long way. Indeed, we have come a long way in the last four years.

Interview by Sean Creedon/Fabio Licari (Gazzetta dello Sport)