If I were 15 years younger I'd play! Ireland's 73-year-old boss Trap can't wait for Croatia
13:26 GMT, 8 June 2012
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 Republic of Ireland boss 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 will replaced 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.
Age is just a number: Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni speaks in Gdynia on Friday
He said: 'It's as if I was 20. I am fresh in head and above all, I am hungry for new situations.
'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 on Saturday.
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 Republic 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.
Countdown: Ireland's squad prepare to face Croatia during a training session in Gdynia
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.'
From almost the moment Ireland booked their trip to Poland and Ukraine by comfortably seeing off Estonia over two legs, Trapattoni has reminded nay-sayers who have dismissed their chances of progressing of the heroics performed by Greece in the same competition eight years ago.
Otto Rehhagel's side were rank outsiders but ultimately lifted the trophy after demonstrating a cohesion, organisation and commitment which eased them past more talented opposition and took them all the way.
Trapattoni's Ireland have similar qualities and although he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground, he is confident they can make an impact.
He said: 'In my life, my rule is never say never. Obviously, to dream is easy. After there is 90 minutes, 90 minutes, 90 minutes, 90 minutes.
No holding back: Stephen Ward (left) and James McClean challenge for the ball in training
'After five games, maybe the dream comes true.'
If the Republic's ambitions are to be realised, they will need their best players to be fit and healthy and one of them, keeper Shay Given, provided his manager with a timely boost today when he was able to train with his team-mates at the Municipal Stadium in Gdynia once again.
Given's appearances on the training pitch have been sporadic as a result of knee and calf injuries and blistered feet, but there was little sign of any discomfort this morning.
Trapattoni said: 'He was rested, he was not injured, so I have no doubts that he can play.'
Midfielder Glenn Whelan missed the end of the session, but his manager was similarly unconcerned.
He said: 'It was only a knock. He doesn't have a problem.'
Barring any late disasters, Trapattoni will field the same team which started in Hungary on Monday night with John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Stephen Ward lining up ahead of Given and behind Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Whelan and Aiden McGeady, with Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle in attack.