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Why Trapattoni would suit Nigeria

Former Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu (left) with Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni
Nigeria want Giovanni Trapattoni (right) to replace Shaibu Amodu

The BBC's Stephen Fottrell works on the World Service's African football website as well as the sports programme Fast Track and has followed the Republic of Ireland for many years.

Here he considers why Italian Giovanni Trapattoni would make an ideal coach for Nigeria's World Cup campaign.

Of all the candidates on Nigeria's wish-list to lead the Super Eagles to the World Cup, one of the names that stands out is that of the vastly experienced Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

The current Republic of Ireland manager is contracted to remain with the Irish until 2012, and would already be heading for South Africa, were it not for the infamous events in Paris in November surrounding Thierry Henry's handball, which saw France qualify at Ireland's expense.

While it would further break Irish hearts to see a man they have adopted as one of their own swap Dublin for Abuja, Trapattoni may see this as possibly his last tilt at a World Cup.

And while the 70-year-old has said that he would ideally like to end his long and chequered career by leading the "boys in green" to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he may yet decide that a more immediate challenge with the other men in green may be an opportunity worth grasping now.

Thierry Henry handles the ball during France's World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland
Thierry Henry's handball cost Ireland a place at the World Cup

The former Italian national coach must feel on a personal level that he still has some unfinished business of his own on the world stage, after the Azzurri were controversially knocked out of the World Cup in 2002 by co-hosts South Korea, after seeing a late goal dubiously disallowed.

That decision cost 'Trap' and his men a place in the quarter-finals of that tournament, which was seen as something of a blot on the Italian's CV.

But there is no doubting what he has achieved with an Irish team that, like Nigeria, were extremely short on confidence and a tactical game-plan when he took them over in 2008.

Trapattoni replaced Steve Staunton as Ireland boss, after the former Irish captain had overseen a disastrous period that would make Shaibu Amodu's reign and treatment by the Nigerian media seem favourable by comparison.

The former Juventus and Bayern Munich boss immediately turned around the fortunes of a team that only months previously had been slumping to results such as a 5-2 battering by Cyprus, and transformed them into an organised tactical outfit that quickly learned how to win again.

Recognising he had a fairly limited group of players at his disposal, with the exception of a handful of talented names such as Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Shay Given, Trapattoni executed a well-organised game-plan that would see the Irish progress as the only unbeaten team in the World Cup play-off draw.

What followed in Paris is history, but for the fans who watched Ireland dominate the former World Cup winners on their own turf, Trapattoni would remind many that night that he can turn any side into an organised and at times thrilling attacking outfit.

Nigeria celebrate winning third place at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations
Nigeria claimed third place at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola

Granted he has his detractors in Ireland who maintain his style of football is too defensive, but anyone who previously thought that was all he had in his tactical locker was proven wrong on that night in November when the Irish took the game to France in ambitious style.

The expectations of the Nigerian footballing public are, of course, at a much more intense level, in a country with a population 30 times that of Ireland, and the Italian's tactical approach may be an issue for fans that demand to see their Super Eagles not just win, but do so in style.

But having turned previously limited players whose names would only be familiar to the most avid followers of English football - such as Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan and Sean St Ledger - into seasoned internationals, one wonders what the Italian could achieve with some of the talent in the Nigerian squad.

While Nigeria's performances at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola were lacklustre, there is no denying that players such as Chinedu Obasi, John Obi Mikel and Osaze Odemwingie have the potential to make the same kind of impact on the world stage as some of their illustrious Nigerian predecessors.

606: DEBATE

Nigeria's players, past and present, have admitted the team need to up their game significantly if they want to challenge at Africa's first World Cup finals, and they may see another European coach as the answer to their current crisis of confidence.

Trapattoni may well tick many of the necessary boxes for the Nigerians, but one drawback could be his high wages, with the Italian currently on an estimated salary of almost US$2.75m, some of which is funded by wealthy Irish businessman Denis O'Brien.

Whether Nigeria can afford to hire him on a permanent or temporary basis may depend on their ability to cover that kind of salary, but it may be a gamble worth taking on the "wily old fox" - as Russia coach and fellow Nigerian wish-list candidate Guus Hiddink referred to him.

Having also been linked with the Turkish national job recently, Trapattoni has previously denied that he would walk out on Ireland ahead of their European Championship qualifying campaign.

But privately he may see the opportunity of taking a talented Nigerian squad to South Africa in June as too good an opportunity to pass up.



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see also
Trapattoni added to Nigeria list
09 Feb 10 |  African
NFF chief explains Amodu sacking
09 Feb 10 |  African
Shehata enters Nigeria coaching race
07 Feb 10 |  African
Nigeria part company with Amodu
06 Feb 10 |  African
Unlucky Irish look to future
31 Dec 09 |  Football
Irish 'cheated' by Henry handball
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
France 1-1 Rep of Ire (agg 2-1)
18 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Trapattoni extends Republic stay
25 Sep 09 |  Internationals
Rep of Ireland 1-1 Nigeria
29 May 09 |  Internationals


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