By Ciaran O Raghallaigh in Gdansk
Giovanni Trapattoni was intentionally vague about many things here in Gdansk’s eye-catching PGE Arena ahead of the crunch Group C game with Spain.
He refused to name his team, for the first time in four years since he took charge of Ireland.
He wouldn’t confirm whether Robbie Keane would play as lone striker, despite his skipper – seated immediately to his left, very nearly confirming it himself.
He didn’t clarify whether Ireland would veto Spain’s request to water the pitch, as Italy did to some success last Sunday.
But one thing was sure. There’s zero chance of anyone in this team rolling over and dying, despite facing one of the best teams in the history of international football.
Trap’s pride in his players remains intact.
He’s certain they’ve overcome, psychologically, the defeat to Croatia on Sunday, and are ready to go again.
His life-long philosophy of ‘all things being possible in football’ has not changed.
“Over 10 months the strongest team wins, but 90 minutes? Anything can happen,” he said.
Going on Trap’s bullish performance, the Spaniards, who are almost unbackable in this game, won’t enjoy a stroll in the park tomorrow night.
“I’m not going to give a present to Spain to beat us,” he said. “I’m not going to let them take the ball and go up and score a goal.”
The point was made as questions rained down on him, in various languages, about what approach Ireland would take against the reigning world and European champions.
Reading between the lines, Keane will play as a lone striker, with Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters lining up between him and the midfield.
There may be another change – but Trap refused to entertain any further. “Maybe one or two, not four or five, sure no”.
Trap acknowledged that Spain have technically better players who pass the ball fast and with intent, and conceded that his midfield would need the help from an extra player.
Why this hasn’t been done before is beyond anyone.
Keane’s history as a lone striker is not exactly a glittering one, but he insists he’s ready to fill the role.
“We had a chat, and we will speak more after training when we see the situation of certain players. If I do play as lone striker, it’s something I’ve done plenty of times before, obviously it’s different to what I’m used to,” said Robbie.
“But I enjoy it. I have to play more on the shoulder, get in behind defenders. So if the manager decides to do that, I’m happy to go with that.”
Trap and Keane were full of smiles and laughter over the course of a wide ranging press conference, with Trap side stepping some potentially scandalous questions with ease from his old friends in Germany and Italy – who always seem to turn up at his events with mischief in mind.
One asked Trap about Italy striker Antonio Cassano’s recent faux pas about homosexual players in the Italian squad, to which Trap offered: “If you want to know my answer, I’ll tell you in private.”
Say no more.
But Keane gave a more important insight toward the end of the Trap show.
While the Italian had spoken of the players being ready psychologically for tomorrow’s game, Keane’s words proved it.
“We’re playing the best team in the world, with the best players in the world so we’re not naive to think it will be easy. We’re not daft.
“But my message is we need to show the commitment and hear we’ve shown since the manager took over.
“Everyone in this room has probably written the script that Spain will beat us – but there’s no way the players go into any game thinking that.
“As an individual, there is no way I would believe we’re going to be beaten by anybody.
“Whether they’re superior to any of us, it’s 11 v 11, it’s 90 minutes.”