Emotional Trapattoni facing Irish dilemma

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An emotional Giovanni Trapattoni found himself caught between a rock and a hard place on Friday as he was grilled over Ireland's 4-0 thrashing by Spain at Euro 2012.

The 73-year-old coach, who guided the Irish to their first European Championship since 1988, was forced to defend his line-ups and tactics after defeats by Croatia and the world champions condemned his side to an early flight home.

Ireland face Italy in their final Group C match on Monday in Poznan with only pride at stake, although should the Irish avoid defeat the Italians would also fail to reach the quarter-finals.

With mounting criticism over Ireland's performances, the wily Italian is under pressure to blood younger players with a view to the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup.

However, Trapattoni said it was not as simple as that, fearing accusations of helping his native Italy who must win in Poznan to have any chance of reaching the last eight.

"If we change now, suppose Italy beat the Irish? Will you think Spain or Croatia will be happy? Maybe they will think that I made it easy for Italy if I change two or three players," Trapattoni told reporters at Ireland's Gdynia training base.

"UEFA say that managers must put on the pitch their best team, the strongest team. I can change five or six players in the friendlies in August but not now.

"If I play the young generation against Italy there might be the perception that I am favouring my own country. I do have changes in mind but I can't put three or four or five new names in because I would be accused of that.

"I am loyal to the players who brought us here and they deserve to be here."

Even if Italy beat Ireland they could still miss out on a quarter-final spot if Spain and Croatia are involved in a high-scoring draw, a scenario Trapattoni faced as Italy manager at the 2004 championship when his side were eliminated after Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Conspiracy theories have surfaced in Italy but Trapattoni said he did not subscribe to them, despite his veiled criticism of the two Scandinavian rivals eight years ago.

"I think there are too many eyes in the world watching it now and I think it will be difficult for that to happen nowadays. There were not so many eyes in 2004 when Italy got knocked out.

"But anything can happen in this life. I have seen a lot, I have white hair."

One of Italy's most successful coaches was also forced to defend his own performance following comments by former Ireland skipper Roy Keane who said the country's fans expected more and were not just in Poland for a "sing-song".

Fixing his gaze on the gathered media and puffing out his chest, the white-haired Trapattoni rejected suggestions that he was no longer the man to lead Ireland in his curious, but endearing, broken English.

"When there is a bad result there is only one [person] responsible, the manager," he said.

However, he remained puzzled by Ireland's displays.

"We had the players to play this tournament... we had the determination the mentality but I saw a situation I never saw in two years.

"We deserved to qualify and we had good results against teams ranked higher than us. These players achieved the first qualification for 24 years.

"How much value do you give this team for reaching the Euros? I am proud to come with this team and these players.

"After this I'm even more enthusiastic [to go on]."