Ireland back youth in World Cup qualifier
Giovanni Trapattoni hopes his youthful Republic of Ireland team can continue to beat the odds when Austria visit Dublin today.
Trapattoni selected 10 outfield players with an average age of 24 in the scoreless draw against Sweden in Stockholm last Friday, a tally that included veteran skipper Robbie Keane, 32. But the LA Galaxy forward has been ruled out of today game with a calf strain, leaving the team 123 caps lighter.
The Ireland squad has changed since last year's European championship, most notably illustrated by the fact that only two of the team that began the last Euro 2012 group game against Italy in Poznan started in the qualifier in Sweden.
With Keane now ruled out, it could be an almost totally different line-up that starts against Austria in what Trapattoni has declared a "must win" group C clash.
Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady and Keith Andrews are some of the experienced players unavailable, but in their place a group of youngsters have begun to leave their mark.
Seamus Coleman of Everton, Wigan's James McCarthy and West Bromwich Albion's Shane Long are three of the key talents hoping to cement their places in the starting line-up for years to come. All three are Premier League regulars.
"It is important they continue to play because they will get more confidence, they will have more trust," Trapattoni said. "I have trust in my players. I can't say to you it is easy, but we give them trust, and we give them confidence about how they must play."
Austria are level with Ireland on points and their confidence is high after a 6-0 hammering of the Faroe Islands. Victory for either side will see them move above Sweden into second place behind runaway leaders Germany.
"Austria will be full of confidence after winning 6-0, we're under no illusion, but I think we need to be winning these games to be there come the finish of the group," Long added.
"We've got to keep the pressure on Sweden and bring them to our place with everything to play for.
"Sweden still have to play Kazakhstan and Austria away. Anything can happen but we don't want to have things out of our own hands."