Trap aims for 2012 qualification
© AFP

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has set his sights on a place in the finals of UEFA EURO 2012 after being cruelly denied a trip to the FIFA World Cup™.

The 71-year-old Italian will send his side into friendly battle with finalists Paraguay and Algeria this week knowing they could have been joining them in South Africa had it not been for their controversial play-off exit at the hands on France in November.

However, that is now history and the focus is already turning to the qualification campaign which gets under way in September. Having worked with his senior players for the last two days, Trapattoni said: "We could see immediately we are not on holiday. They came here not on holiday.

"I have said for the last two years, when you wear this shirt, there is no such thing as a friendly game because it's our pride and the mentality of our country that is important. We have to build our mentality. I am not arrogant, but we are sure we have a strong team.

"Today I spoke with Marco [Tardelli, assistant manager] and we were saying this group [of players] is a great group - they showed us that against Brazil, against Italy and against France. They played better than or at the same level as those teams.

"I know the group will be difficult and we will been all our players to be fit, but I have seen many games and I think we can qualify because this group is strong."

This is a great group - they showed us that against Brazil, against Italy and against France. They played better than or at the same level as those teams
Giovani Trapattoni, Republic of Ireland manager

Trapattoni spent last week working with some of his up and coming players, although the exercise was marred by the injury to 18-year-old Everton defender Shane Duffy which almost cost him his life.

Thankfully, the teenager is making a good recovery after rupturing his hepatic artery in a freak training game accident, although the incident will remain in the memories of those who witnessed it for some time.

Some of those who impressed during the training camp - Paul Green, Shane Long, Keith Fahey and Greg Cunningham - could get chances as substitutes tomorrow night, but Trapattoni will otherwise go largely with experience.

The exception to that is 25-year-old Coventry keeper Keiren Westwood, who will win his fourth cap as he deputises for the injured Shay Given. Trapattoni said: "Westwood is a goalkeeper with a great personality. Physically, he is fantastic. He has personality and a presence that I like very much, and I don't think he will be fazed by the game."