Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni admitted he was proud of his team's start to qualifying after maintaining their unbeaten record against Italy following a 1-1 draw in Bari. Robbie Keane struck a dramatic late equaliser three minutes from time to earn the visitors a share of the spoils against Italy following Vincenzo Iaquinta's 11th minute opener.
Giampaolo Pazzini's first start in an Italy shirt quickly turned into a nightmare as he earned the quickest red card in his country's history, receiving his marching orders after just four minutes, but despite playing almost the entire match with a numerical advantage, Trapattoni was pleased with the point.
"Before the game started we were amongst 11 unbeaten teams in the group stages," he said. "I didn't say anything to you (the press) because I didn't want to jinx it but I talked to my players about this because I thought it would give them momentum. We may be ranked only 26th, but we still haven't lost. To stay unbeaten here in Italy, it shows everything is possible."
Ireland show lots of enthusiasm and effort on a difficult pitch but were sadly lacking in inspiration until the last five minutes when suddenly they started creating havoc around Italy's goal. Trapattoni was satisfied with the result despite only having one shot on target before the 85th minute.
"I think over the 90 minutes a draw is the right result because we were playing 11 against ten," he said. "During this time we had the best chances to win the game but after it went to 1-0 it was very difficult to score a goal because the Italian defenders and the Italy team are famous for being the best defenders in the world.
"Maybe we could have played better but Italy passed the ball very, very well because normally with ten against 11 you can put them under more pressure. We were a little bit nervous because we wanted to achieve a result and we don't usually make the same easy mistakes with our passing but I couldn't reproach my players because they gave a very good image of themselves. I saw them in the dressing room and they were very happy."
However, the point was enought to keep Italy top of Group 8. "If we had won it would have been a great boost to our confidence," added Lippi. "To play 90 minutes with ten men and win would be fantastic but we still have a two-point advantage and there are still four games to play.
"My players played like a unit and when they need to fight and suffer they know how to do it. I'm satisfied with what we've done in these last few days and I told them we've taken a small step forward in terms of qualification."