Early Doors

Why Ireland will beat France

Early Doors

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Five reasons why the Republic
of Ireland will win their World Cup
play-off against France.

1 - Giovanni Trapattoni

It has become fashionable for coaches of technically-limited
sides to attempt to play the game "the right way". They try to pass
their way to victory despite possessing the poise and vision of a
steaming-drunk Stevie Wonder. And they come unstuck. Witness how West Brom's
approximation of a slick passing game earned more plaudits than points in last
season's Premier League. Trap is
from the old school. He has no truck with this commitment to the beautiful
game. His sides play to their
strengths. Ireland
don't have creative central midfielders,
so he gets Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan to boot the hell out of the
opposition instead. Knocking it long down the flanks for the wingers to chase
might not make too many friends, but it's
the sort of pragmatism that makes him the rightful heir to Jack Charlton, and
it might just get Ireland
to the World Cup.

2 - Raymond Domenech (pictured)

What is there left to say about France's king of comedy, except: "I see he's been sacked at last"? A natural charmer,
Domenech reacted to yesterday's draw
by calling Ireland
"the England B team" - a remark he will not be allowed to forget
should the Irish prevail. After Euro 2008, French fans had a national
whip-round hoping to raise enough money to pay Domenech to leave. Even Michel Platini
is not a fan. Last week, he said: "Raymond
will leave (after the World Cup), that's
for sure. His problem isn't
football, but that of his communication." A possible rapprochement with
long-term nemesis David Trezeguet promises more fireworks.

3 - Travelling support

An Irish colleague of Early Doors was praying to be drawn
against the French because, he said, the away leg would be like a home game. Within
10 minutes of the draw being made he had his Eurostar booked and his fingers
crossed that the game would not - like France's qualifier against the Faroe
Islands - be moved to Guingamp. An estimated 30,000 travelled
the last time Ireland
visited Paris
in 2004 (the match ended goalless) and more are expected this time. And, to
make the Irish influence even greater, the France side will have to deal with
the Stade de France...

4 - Stade de France

Some people say the Stade de France has no atmosphere. They
are wrong. It's hostile, all right.
Problem is, the venom is usually directed at the home side. The French are not
the most patient or tolerant people in the world. If they don't like something, they make their feelings known. Usually
by going on strike. In sport, their displeasure manifests itself in the form of
ear-splitting whistles, directed at any player who is not up to scratch. Which,
in France's stuttering qualifying campaign, has been most of
them. In their 1-0 win over Lithuania, France were jeered as early as the 40th
minute, got booed off at half-time and, ludicrously, booed back on when they
emerged for the second half.

5 - Karma

FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter has invested so much of his credibility
in the South Africa World Cup, he is hell-bent on making it a success. You feel
this determination motivated the late decision to seed the European play-off
draw in favour of the 'good' teams. This chicanery cannot have pleased the
football gods, and it would be no surprise to see Sepp get his karmic
comeuppance in the form of an Irish victory. Also, to say the French do not
deal well with pressure is something of an understatement. Their outrageous
meltdown against Bulgaria
in 1993 still causes sleepless nights, while the country's
greatest ever player chose the World Cup final as the perfect stage to nut a
guy for talking about his sister.

- - -

Whether by design or luck, Yahoo! Eurosport's advertising people have really come up trumps
today.

Great swathes of website space have been sold to an
electronics company who, for reasons best known for themselves, have chosen to
illustrate their latest campaign with space hoppers.

Hence, the site is absolutely covered with hundreds of bouncy,
inflatable spheres.

Just chop off the handles and replace the faces with a Liverpool crest and - Hey Presto! - you've got a beach ball themed website.

- - -

Fresh from winning a victory for free speech in the
Trafigura case - in which they overturned an injunction against the reporting
of a parliamentary question about toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast
(fascinating, ED is sure) - the Guardian have set their sights on a source of
even purer evil; Ken Bates.

The moral crusaders were not at last night's game between Leeds and Norwich because they have been banned from Elland Road.

The Guardian's
David Conn has written articles suggesting there is confusion over the club's ownership and revealing that Bates made "an
error" in a sworn statement in court over the issue. Clearly, the League
One leaders are not best pleased and have denied the paper accreditation.

Consequently, there is no match report either in the Guardian
itself or on its website, which rather begs the question: didn't they realise it was on the telly?

In any case, ED fears the Guardian's
latte-slurpers may have met their match. They might be able to take down a
global commodities dealer and their fearsome lawyers Carter-Ruck, but Ken Bates?
A tougher adversary altogether.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Rafa Benitez responds to claims he never congratulates his
players and talked about corners after Fernando Torres learned he was to become
a father: "When you repeat a
lie a lot of times, it becomes true. I have a lot of conversations with the
players, as individuals and in groups, about positives and negatives.  We have normal conversations, but I suppose
they have to sell books, and to do that you have to write something If they do
well, I say well done. I have said that hundreds of times, especially when we
win. You cannot be close friends, because you have to make decisions. But the
relationship is not bad. I was surprised with Fernando saying what he did in
his book. It's true I spoke to him
about the goal (in last season's 2-0
win) against Chelsea,
but it is a different situation in the dressing room.  I offered him my congratulations about the
baby, but I suppose you have to sell books."

FOREIGN VIEW: Serie A's bottom side Livorno have sacked de facto coach Gennaro Ruotolo, with
official boss Vittorio Russo also appearing to be on the brink of losing his job.

Ruotolo led the side to promotion last season
but did not have the necessary coaching badges for the top-flight so Russo, who
had the qualifications, was brought in to shadow him.

"I'm
really sorry but Livorno comes before
everything and a change was needed," club president Aldo Spinelli said after
dismissing good friend Ruotolo.

Former Parma
and Empoli coach Luigi Cagni has said he is interested in the post, if Russo
leaves as well, while media reports have said Spinelli wants to bring in former
Italy and Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi as technical
director.

ENGLAND
WORLD CUP WATCH:
A big day for England's strikers, who are doing their best to clown
their way out of a seat on the plane to South Africa. Peter Crouch is
pictured in the Daily Mail dancing ludicrously with Jonathan Woodgate (isn't he meant to be injured?) in tacky West End nightspot Movida. Meanwhile, The Sun claims
Emile Heskey was the naughty boy caught texting during dinner by Fabio Capello,
prompting the Italian to hurl a metal tray across the room. Darren Bent must be
rubbing his hands with delight.

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