Euro 2012 Preview: 10 Things to Know About Republic of Ireland
Euro 2012 is less than three months away, and today we're previewing the Republic of Ireland.
Read on for 10 facts you'll need to know about the Irish before the start of the tournament this summer in Poland and the Ukraine.
Sports betting website Ladbrokes lists the Republic of Ireland at 66/1 to win Euro 2012. But you want to know more, right?
Giovanni Trapattoni Is a Funny Dude
Ireland hired Italian Giovanni Trapattoni in 2008 at the height of the British fad for hiring foreign managers. Last year Trapattoni signed an extension that will keep him with the team through the 2014 World Cup.
But he's not necessarily the crusty old manager you might expect. Late last year, Trapattoni confounded reporters with a confusing and hilariously insane analogy following a Euro 2012 playoff win.
"The cat is in the sack, but the sack is not closed,'' he said. ''The cat is in it, but it's open—and it's a wild cat."
Sounds like quite a cat indeed.
Last Time, Pt. I
Last Time, Pt. II
Ireland's last appearance at any major tournament came in the 2002 World Cup.
That year, Mick McCarthy's squad finished second behind eventual runners-up Germany in Group E and lost to Spain in a Round of 16 penalty shootout.
Ireland's current captain is also their all-time leading scorer. You know him as Robbie Keane.
Keane, who turns 32 this summer, has played for Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, Tottenham, Liverpool, Celtic and the Los Angeles Galaxy during a 15-year career. Recently, he completed a successful loan spell with Aston Villa.
Keane has scored 53 goals in 115 international appearances. If everything goes right, he'll get to show off his trademark goal celebration a few more times this summer.
The Irish squad that drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic in February had a decidedly veteran feel.
Five starters—Keane, goalkeeper Shay Given, defender John O'Shea and midfielders Damien Duff and Keith Andrews—were over the age of 30.
Given is the team's all-time caps leader with 121.
Trapattoni also has some young guns at his disposal, though it's unclear how willing he'll be to use them.
The Ireland boss left up-and-comers James McClean and Shane Duffy on the bench for the Czech Republic game, but both appeared as second-half substitutes.
Two More Friendlies
Trapattoni will have two more chances to evaluate his squad in match situations before Euro 2012 kicks off.
The final tuneup will come against Hungary in Budapest on June 4.
Before the playoff against Estonia, Ireland finished second, two points behind Russia, in Euro 2012 qualifying Group B.
When the group's top two teams met head-to-head in qualifying, they had mixed fortunes. Russia won 3-2 at Aviva Stadium in October 2010 before Ireland held Russia to a scoreless draw in Moscow in September 2011.
The loss to Russia was Ireland's only defeat in qualifying.
Euro 2012 Base
Ireland will have a tough task at Euro 2012 after drawing defending European and World Cup champions Spain in Group C. The group also features Croatia and four-time world champions Italy.
All three of Ireland's group matches will be played in Poland. The FAI chose Gdynia, a small town on the Baltic Sea, as their Euro 2012 base.