By Chris McNulty
With Robbie Keane a major doubt for the games, due to an abductor muscle injury sustained in Andorra last Friday, Liffordman Given could captain Ireland into the two-legged date with destiny.
The 35-year old Aston Villa goalkeeper was skipper on Tuesday night as Ireland earned their place among the top seeds for the play-offs with a 2-1 win over Armenia in Dublin.
Yesterday in Krakow, the play-off draw was made by one of Trapattoni’s former players, the ex Juventus and Poland star Zbigniew Boniek.
Estonia was the tie most Irish fans had been hoping for and they breathed a sigh of relief as they avoided Turkey, with whom they had a forgettable play-off battle for Euro 2000 that ended in a brawl with Tony Cascarino on the end of some heavy-handed treatment.
Estonia upset the odds to overcome Serbia and Slovenia to earn second spot in Group C, behind Group winners Italy, with Tarmo Ruutli’s men ten points adrift of the Azzuri.
Irish fans have fond memories of Estonia. On their way to the play-offs for the 2002 World Cup – Ireland’s last major finals – Mick McCarthy’s men recorded two 2-0 wins over Estonia. Mark Kinsella and Richard Dunne scored the goals in Dublin with Dunne again on target with Matt Holland in Tallinn.
Given and Ireland will be confident of bagging a win to send them into what would be only Ireland’s second ever appearance at the Euro finals – 1988 being the last.
Trapattoni said: “Our build up to this stage of the competition has shown us the importance of organisation, attention to detail, and self-belief. That will be vitally important to us as we prepare for these games in November.”