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By ESPN Staff

Trapattoni exciting by improving Ireland side

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni admits even he is getting excited about his adopted country's World Cup adventure.

The 69-year-old - fittingly, he will turn 70 on St Patrick's Day - has guided his side to the top of qualifying Group Eight behind his native Italy only on goal difference.

The 2-1 victory over Georgia at Croke Park in their game in hand on the world champions set them up perfectly for the double header against Bulgaria in Dublin next month and then the showdown between the top two in Bari four days later.

Victory over the Bulgarians would simply increase the growing sense of anticipation in Ireland, and that would also extend to Trapattoni.

Asked if he is excited by his team's return of 10 points from a possible 12, he said: "Sure. I came here because I believe in this team and I thought I could give the Ireland team my experience.

"I am proud of what this team has learnt under me. We are not Brazil, but I am proud of this team, of those players. I am told it is 20 years since our team was at the top of the table, and that's important.

"But it is early. Wait until after Italy.''

Italy boss Marcello Lippi was among the crowd for last night's game 24 hours after his side's 2-0 friendly defeat by Brazil at the Emirates Stadium.

What he saw inside the opening 45 minutes - the visitors took the lead within seconds of the kick-off through Alexander Iashvili's strike - may not have concerned him unduly as Ireland struggled to find any real fluency.

However, they gradually wore Georgia down and, albeit with the help of a questionable penalty decision, levelled from the spot through skipper Robbie Keane with 17 minutes remaining, and then snatched victory when the Tottenham striker took his senior international goals tally to 37 five minutes later.

Trapattoni had revealed in the run-up to the game that his side commands respect in Italy, although he admitted Lippi saw a game of two halves from his seat in the stands.

He said: "In the first half, maybe Lippi thought Ireland did not have the same potential as his team. But in the second half, we showed him Ireland is a strong team.''

The two men did not talk after the game last night, but Trapattoni will be in touch soon.

He said with a smile: "I have not spoken to him yet - but I will back in Italy.''

Trapattoni headed for home satisfied with a result which was as difficult to come by as he had anticipated, but proud of the fighting spirit his team had shown in adversity.

Iashvili's strike got Georgia off to the perfect start, and Ireland had to scrap for a way back into the game as Hector Cuper's men defended resiliently until their fortunes changed alarmingly with the penalty decision.

Trapattoni said: "Over the 90 minutes, we deserved to win. Obviously with the penalty, we were a little bit lucky, but in the second half, we deserved to win. We had many shots and Shay Given had only one save to make.

"The spirit of the team in the second half, I was very proud of them. I said to them at half-time, 'Believe in our game, it's possible'.

"We had a very, very important reaction, and I was proud of their spirit and character.''


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