Jun 8 2012
Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni insists he feels like a 20-year-old as he prepares to become the oldest coach to send his team into European Championship finals battle.
The 73-year-old will set a new record when he heads for the dug-out at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan on Sunday night to watch his team open their Group C campaign against Croatia.
But Trapattoni - who replaces Austria-born Otto Baric, who had his 71st birthday while leading Croatia at Euro 2004, as the senior member of the managerial club - is confident that his thirst for knowledge and fascination with all that is new in football is keeping him young. He said: "It's as if I was 20. I am fresh in head and above all, I am hungry for new situations."
He added: "I watch every game and think maybe I can discover another little situation. I want to know new things. I always want to get to know new things that I didn't know before. That is important. A general once said it's an old man who isn't curious about the next news. I think I'm like a 20-year-old - but with more experience."
Such is Trapattoni's enduring enthusiasm that he even suggested he could play in the game himself, although only if he were 15 years younger. He said with a smile: "I could start the game. If I could return 15 years, I could play also."
The veteran Italian will instead leave that side of things to the team he has schooled over the last four years for exactly the kind of engagement which lies before them tomorrow night.
Victory over Croatia, who sit in eighth place in FIFA's official rankings, 10 better off than their first Euro 2012 opponents, could prove crucial to Ireland's hopes of reaching the knock-out stages of a competition for which they qualified via the play-offs.
On paper, it is arguably their most promising chance of securing a three-point haul with Spain and Italy to come. The sides drew 0-0 in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium in August last year, and while the Irish are well aware of the quality manager Slaven Bilic has at his disposal despite the withdrawal through injury of striker Ivica Olic, they remain quietly confident.
Trapattoni said: "They are ahead of us in the rankings, but we played them in a friendly game and did well. Many players play in England, Germany - our team knows their opponent.
"But no result is confirmed until the match is played. I played many times against players who were big, big stars. But I won one-on-one against them. That is a good stimulus."