By Ciaran O Raghallaigh in Poznan | exclusive
YOU know that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want?
The one where old Mel figures out exactly what it is the fairer sex want after electrocuting himself with a hairdryer?
Well, Slaven Bilic didn’t have to fall into a bath yesterday to tell us he knows EVERYTHING Giovanni Trapattoni is thinking.
With a cockiness Mel would be proud of, the Croatia boss swaggered into tonight’s pre-match press conference and called out the old Italian.
First he buttered him up a bit, pinching his cheeks and calling him ‘Mr Calcio‘ (Mr Football), then rolled him over and tickled his belly by telling him he’s ‘fascinated’ by him.
Then Bilic went in for the kill and said: “Trap, NOTHING you can do would surprise me.
“I follow the Irish team and I know everything about them,” he said. They play very good football but it is very simple so, objectively, they are not such a heavy team to analyse.
“Maybe they will surprise us. But they play one way so I don’t know if they can surprise us.”
But, hold on. Bilic might have a trick or two in his purse.
“I think we can surprise them. We know everything about them. They know everything about us – BUT maybe we have some surprise that I can’t repeat to you,” he said.
“We have to play a huge match and if we play as well as we can tomorrow we will win.”
Bilic refused to name his team, indicating that, just like Helen Hunt proved, a bit of mind games can go a long way.
Vedran Corluka is certain to start, despite an earlier injury fear, while Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic will start up front.
Much chatter has pointed to Shakhtar Donetsk skipper Darijo Srna playing the right back role he does to such effect at club level, having been played on the right wing for years by Bilic.
Whether delaying his team points to caution or fear, Bilic doesn’t appear rattled.
“The first match is very important. We have to do it really well because our nation is really full of emotion. If we get three points tomorrow everything will be so much easier,” he said.
Croatia are favourites, but Trapattoni and Robbie Keane aren’t having any of it.
“I think 90 per cent of Germans thought Bayern Munich would win the Champions League, but Chelsea won it,” Trap lashed out – at a cheeky Deutscher who said Ireland came to Poland with only ‘hope’.
Clearly he was confusing James McClean and Aiden McGeady with Jedward.
“We are here because we deserved it and we are fully determined to get through the qualifying round,” Trap added.
But shit happens, sometimes, the Italian added, probably with Thierry Henry’s merde in mind.
“We all expect victory of course, but it is possible to make mistakes,” he said.
“This is the huge concern – before the game you hope only to avoid mistakes. Something unpredictable can happen in every match.
“You can prepare in the best way you can, I always watch matches, I prepare very well, but there is always the unpredictable situation.”
Keane, who at one stage told non-Irish journalists to please shut up and let Irish journalists speak, was also in fine fettle.
The Dubliner intends to do everything he can to inspire the country to victory, and in doing so plans to resuscitate the Celtic Tiger.
“It’s been a difficult 10 years for the country,” said Keane, who scored three goals when Ireland were last at a major tournament in 2002. “Back then we had a great experience, with players like Steve Staunton and Niall Quinn, but I was 21 and you take things for granted, you think you’re going to be in every tournament,” he said.
“We haven’t been in one for a long time, and now that we’re here you can see the atmosphere of the whole nation.
“It has changed the nation. The country has been on it’s knees for a few years, so it is great for us as players to help change that and we want to give the people as much joy as possible over the next month or so.”
Give joy. Just what women want. And men with painted faces and tight-fitting soccer jerseys too.
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