Not the Republic of Ireland and Italy. But Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi.
One will sprinkle Holy Water on the touchline to "remove negativity." The other, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the great American actor, Paul Newman, will smoke his trademark thin cigars as he chases history. Only one manager has ever won back to back World Cups: Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938. Mister Lippi would like to become the second, but first, he has to qualify. The Republic of Ireland is his only true roadblock in UEFA Group 8.
Few Managers Have Won More Silverware
Two of the most fabled Italian managers have a history that can be traced back to 1970. They faced each other for the first time as players when AC Milan beat Sampdoria, 3 x 1. Since then, there has been precious little that they collectively have not won as managers: Italian scudetti, European Nation's Cups, UEFA Cups, Cup of Cups, and the World Cup. Both led Juventus to glory, but Trapattoni went on to win championships abroad in Austria, Germany, and Portugal, respectively.
Giovanni Trapattoni Comes Home to Make History
He becomes the first former Azzurri boss to face the Italians. He will be assisted on the bench by another Azzurri legend, Marco Tardelli. Kick-0ff will be 2050 local time, and 1950 in the Emerald Isle.
"Naturally my heart will beat a little faster for the Italy game,'' he begins. ''I'm a patriotic Italian and facing the country of my birth, the land which has given me so much, will be a special occasion."Evokes the Campaign Quote of Barack Obama
"There may only be two times in my life when I want Italy to fail and they are coming up this year. I'm a professional right down to my boots. I'm responsible for Ireland now and take this job intensely seriously."
''My motivation always increases when I come up against a big opponent. Clearly Italy are expected to take the points, but nothing in this game is clear cut. As long as we believe we can get something out of the game, we have every chance."
''We have a distinct lack of pressure on our side,'' he believes. ''Ireland are big underdogs and few think we have a chance. Italy are on top of the mountain as world champions and we are clambering up. Only Germany and Brazil can compare to them."
''It's strange for me to be the underdog, so I'm counting on the desire of my players to beat the giant. It's human nature that less well-known players look to knock the star names off their perch. I believe we will go into the Italy game with less nerves, but we must apply ourselves and be disciplined. At the same time, a relaxed frame of mind will be good for us."
''Football is not an exact science and nothing in life is. A year ago, Barack Obama was way back in the polls before the American elections, but he became President. His 'Yes We Can' slogan equally applies to us...Source: Trapattoni Prepares for Italian Job.
My Ireland team will go to Italy without any fear and from what I have seen so far, they don't easily accept the established order. They will go out to upset the odds. One thing is for sure, we'll not be thinking we're already beaten before the kick-off.''
Mister Trap's Azzurri Record: 57% Wins
Between 2000 and 2004, he managed the Azzurri 44 times:
- 25 victories, 12 ties, and 7 defeats.
TRAP - "Trapattoni è l’immagine dello sport, un punto di riferimento per il nostro calcio. Per l’esperienza, le vittorie. Per l’entusiasmo che ha a 70 anni. Io cosa farò a quell’età? Ma se non so neanche cosa farò domattina...."
DE ROSSI E PIRLO - "Se è un problema farli giocare assieme? Ma se lo fanno da tempo... La formula di ieri, con Pirlo più avanzato, può funzionare, oppure adotteremo altre soluzioni in base ad altre esigenze tattiche che si presenteranno".
PAZZINI - "Se ha scalato posizioni? Ha fatto bene. Continua il suo momento magico. Poi i miei giocatori devono essere pronti a giocare spezzoni di partita o dal 1’, l’importante è far parte di questo gruppo".
"This game is a unique occasion. We want to beat Ireland in Bari to conquer and consolidate the top position in the table. The Irish are our only antagonists. They didn't deserve their home draw yesterday (Saturday) in Dublin with Bulgaria, but up until now that have known how to do something good in these World Cup qualifiers...Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 29 March 2009.
Trapattoni is a beacon of sport, a point of reference for our football. For his experience, the victories. For the enthusiasm that he has at the age of 70. What will I do at that age? Well, I don't even know what I will do tomorrow."
"Is it a problem if they (Pirlo and Rossi) play together? But they have for awhile. The formula of Saturday, with Pirlo higher up, can work, or we will adopt other solutions and other tactical requirements as they present themselves."
"Has Pazzini jumped ahead of the line? He did well. He continues his magical moment. All of my players need to be ready to play a few minutes or the whole game from the start, it is important to be a part of this group."