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Cautious Trap draws up his masterplan

LET the homework begin. Within hours of the luckiest draw in the history of Irish football, Giovanni Trapattoni has already begun the task of assembling a dossier on Estonia

"I have already spoken to people who know them. They beat Serbia and Slovenia and put Italy under a lot of pressure. Let's not make the common mistake to underestimate them. They have some really technically gifted players," said Trapattoni, as ever, urging caution.

He has much to do before he knows them intimately but he will have many sources to draw on.

Background

"I don't know much about them yet. I saw the match against Italy and I have already talked to Cesare Prandelli about them and I have begun collecting background information on the team from other contacts," he said.

The comparative records of both nations in qualifying would place the Ireland team firmly in the ascendancy but not in Trapattoni's eyes.

"Let's say that the statistics in this case have only a marginal value," said Trapattoni, trying to lower expectations raised by Estonia's patchy showing in the group phase.

"These matches are like cup finals and anything can happen. Undoubtedly, the small advantage that we do have is that we are playing the second game at home.

"But let's not delude ourselves that we have made it to the finals already. We have two tough matches ahead."

Threat

"I am a football man. I do not ignore the threat that this team represents. Only superficial observers would think that this is an easy tie. The players will know this and I know this.

"We are playing against a team who has the same right to be there as us. They had a good qualification campaign and have earned their place at the play-offs through hard-fought results, like us.

"I would not like us to become big headed; a Brazil, Argentina, Spain, or Germany overnight. Have we forgotten where we are in the FIFA rankings?

Trapattoni refuses to accept that Ireland are now favourites to qualify: "Why are we favourites? This is an international team which like us has made it to the play-offs.

"I know these Nordic squads. They are strong, technical, organised and professionally very serious. I have already been told that they are a very valid squad, particularly from a technical point of view in midfield."