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Kazakhs keen to turn up the heat on Trap

EURO 2012 is only just over but already, the manager of Kazakhstan is trying to plan the downfall of Ireland on the road to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup finals.

And while Miroslav Beranek, the Czech-born coach of Ireland's first opponents in the World Cup, accepts that his team are expected to be among the also-rans in a group that also contains Germany, Sweden and Austria, he is relishing the chance to do battle with Giovanni Trapattoni when Ireland take to the field in Astana on September 7.

"Trapattoni is a great coach who has won so much, but football is played by people and not won by your achievements. So let us see how our teams match up on the field and we can battle then," Beranek told the Evening Herald.

"Ireland are the clear favourites for the game in Kazakhstan in September but we will try to play as well as we can and see what happens.

"We are not the strongest team in the group and some people consider us as outsiders. Such conclusion can be made, looking at the rating of teams.

"I saw all of Ireland's matches at Euro 2012 and I think that Ireland can play better. Sometimes this happens in football, when the result of a game does not correspond to the team's level.

"Ireland still have a very worthy team, but at home we always have a chance of getting points and I hope that is the case in the next game," added the 55-year-old Czech native, who was appointed as Kazakhstan's coach last year, their third foreign manager in a row after earlier experiments with a Dutchman and a German.


His predecessors were axed for failing to meet expectations in Kazakhstan but so far Beranek is doing okay, earning brownie points from the fact that he spends a lot of time in Kazakhstan.

The nature of his job means there is little need for travel as almost all of the Kazakh squad are home-based players, including six players from the Shakhtyor Karagandy side which was knocked out of the Europa League by St Patrick's Athletic last summer. No players from Kazakhstan troubling the English Premier League or Champions League group stages, then.

And he reckons that home advantage will be a big factor in favour of his side as Ireland are forced to make the 6,000-mile round trip for the game, the longest trek which the national team has ever made for a 'European' tie.

European is in quotation marks there due to the rather dubious logic of having Kazakhstan -- Astana is further east than Islamabad and their team used to play in the Asian section of World Cup qualification before they were allowed into UEFA -- in the European part of qualifying.

But they are now part of the European family and their home ground, only built in 2009, can be a plus for them -- Austria, who are in the same group as Ireland and the Kazakhs in the next qualifying campaign, could only manage a 0-0 draw in Astana in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

"The stadium, the Astana Arena, is our home. We very much love it and of course we want to win all our home games. Many consider that here it is difficult to beat us because of a synthetic pitch, but I feel that in a game, everyone is on an equal footing and there's nothing to stop our rivals from playing or preparing on an artificial pitch.

"And we are pleased always by our fans -- in games in Astana we always feel their support."

Beranek did not attend matches at Euro 2012 as part of a scouting and spying mission, but that was not down to a lack of finance from the Kazakh FA -- who have managed to build, with government help, a state-of-the-art stadium in Astana -- or a lack of interest on his part.

He was just too busy as Beranek, who previously coached in the Czech Republic and Hungary, was doing the other part of his job, managing local club side FK Astana. There was only a brief break in the season in their domestic league for the Euros -- even the League of Ireland took more time off -- so he had to deal with club games while Ireland were playing in Poland.

"I only saw the games at Euro 2012 on TV, I was occupied with my work with FK Astana," he explains.

"But now I have time to look at Ireland's games, compare and analyse and that is my job now."

September will not be his first time to face Irish opposition though as Beranek smiles at the memory of his last encounter with a side from Ireland: he was manager of a brilliant Slavia Prague side which beat Cork City 6-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Cup in 1994, a Slavia team packed with emerging talents like Vladimir Smicer and Patrik Berger.

"Yes, I perfectly remember that time and those games," he recalled.

"One of my pupils, Vladimir Smicer, played some brilliant games and became one of our heroes. We won the first game 2-0, and then, 4-0, though sadly I didn't manage to see much of your remarkable country."