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Ireland won't take Armenia lightly in Euro decider
Published : 11 Oct 2011 01:05:37
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has warned his players not to underestimate Armenia in Tuesday's shoot-out for a place in the Euro 2012 play-offs.
Trapattoni's second placed side go into their final Group B qualifier in Dublin with a one-point lead over third placed Armenia and a draw will guarantee their spot in the play-offs.
A defeat however would eliminate Ireland and allow Armenia to move into the play-offs instead.
Ireland could also snatch automatic qualification if they win and group leaders Russia slump to a shock defeat at home to minnow Andorra, but that is an extremely unlikely prospect.
A dramatic finale to the qualifying campaign is in store for Ireland's fans, who will expect their side to nail down that second spot against an Armenia team beaten 1-0 in the sides' last meeting.
But Trapattoni is determined not to let his players get swept away on a tidal wave of Irish optimism.
The Armenians have won each of their last three games against Andorra, Slovakia and Macedonia, and scored 11 goals in the process.
Asked if he had been surprised by their late surge, Trapattoni said: "No. If you know the Armenia players it is not a surprise.
"The Armenian players play in strong leagues. We must play with 100 percent mentality and 100 percent attitude and 100 percent concentration and be careful of silly mistakes.
"Armenia is a very, very strong team. They have scored more goals than us and we must pay very, very much attention."
The 72-year-old Italian will send Ireland into their final group game with his own future still undecided amid speculation that he will be offered an extended contract should he guide them to the play-offs.
However, as his second qualifying campaign draws to a close - the first ended in a controversial defeat by France which denied him a trip to the World Cup in South Africa - Trapattoni is confident significant progress has been made.
"At this stage, I hope I have succeeded in instilling a mentality in our players," he said.
"Unfortunately, I am quite demanding because in the past, I have built this mentality with teams I have previously managed. I am very pleased with our way, but we can improve again."
Trapattoni's hopes of securing that precious point were dealt a blow on Sunday when assistant manager Marco Tardelli admitted Ireland captain Robbie Keane is a major doubt with a sore adductor muscle.
LA Galaxy striker Keane -- Ireland's record scorer with 51 goals -- has been struggling with the problem for a week and he faces a race against time to recover.
If Keane isn't able to play, Stoke striker Jonathan Walters, who did not travel to Andorra because of an ankle problem but is now fit, or West Brom forward Shane Long are the most likely candidates to partner Kevin Doyle in Trapattoni's front two.
Trapattoni will also be without left-back Stephen Ward as a result of his second booking of the competition, but defender Richard Dunne is available after completing a ban.