Ireland want Duff to play on
Marco Tardelli has called on Damien Duff to prolong his international career as Ireland bring the curtain down on their Euro 2012 campaign.
Last Updated: 16/06/12 4:34pm
Marco Tardelli has called on Damien Duff to prolong his international career as the Republic of Ireland bring the curtain down on their Euro 2012 campaign.
After the heavy defeats by Croatia and Spain, Ireland tackle Italy in their final Group C encounter on Monday night with question marks over the future of a number of their senior players.
Italy need to win in Poznan if they are to stand any chance of making the quarter-finals, and find a side managed by compatriots Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Tardelli standing in their way.
Trapattoni has already indicated he will not make wholesale changes in an attempt to avoid any accusations of handing the Italians an advantage and Duff will win his 100th cap if he is selected.
Goalkeeper Shay Given has admitted the time could be right to step aside after the tournament, while Robbie Keane plans to play on, with Tardelli hoping the 33-year-old Duff follows the lead of the Irish skipper.
Tardelli said: "Damien Duff is a very good lad and he is a very good player. For us, he has been very important for this team, in qualification, against France and against the other teams.
"We need him for the future because he is a very important person for all the players and the younger players."
The Republic trained in Gdynia on Saturday morning and there was a brief concern when central defender Richard Dunne appeared to injure his back, although Tardelli was not too worried.
He said: "Richard Dunne took a knock, but it is not a problem."
Tardelli is confident Ireland can play with a freedom against Italy, rather than the apparent fear and tension which blighted their earlier displays.
Nervous or afraid
He said: "Yes, we will play with less pressure. We want to put the pressure on the other team.
"Many players are playing for the first time in an important tournament. I think some players have felt nervous or afraid. Against Italy, there is no pressure."
Ireland have a good record against the Italians under Trapattoni having not lost on any of the three occasions on which the teams have met, the last of which resulted in a 2-0 friendly victory.
Tardelli added: "We have played Italy many times and we have won and we have drawn. We hope to win or draw again.
"Italy at this moment is very strong because they played very, very well against Spain, and I think our players need to be proud to beat this Italian team."