Giovanni Trapattoni challenged his Republic of Ireland players to take their impressive form into their remaining Euro 2012 qualifiers after seeing them claim a famous victory over Italy.

A 2-0 win over Trapattoni's native country in Liege on Tuesday night was the Republic's fourth in a row following the Carling Nations Cup successes over Northern Ireland and Scotland and Saturday's defeat of Macedonia in Skopje.

But the 72-year-old knows they will have to play equally well, if not better, when they entertain the Slovakia in September four days before heading for Russia, with the three teams locked together at the top of Group B. Trapattoni said: "We have played four games in 15 days."

He added: We have played Northern Ireland, Scotland - which was a tough match - and then won in Macedonia, which was another tough match, and now Italy. I said it before and I was right, we are coming out of these 15 days with the right mentality, the mentality that we need to go and play against teams like Russia and Slovakia. The lads have understood that fact."

The win over Italy at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium was hugely encouraging for Trapattoni, who rested most of his big players and saw their understudies perform their duties to the letter.

Sean St Ledger, who just missed out on a place in the squad in Macedonia despite not playing for 10 weeks because of a knee injury, was near faultless at the back, while Stephen Hunt's energy in midfield allowed Shane Long and Andy Keogh to keep the Italian defence occupied.

The Republic went ahead in style nine minutes before the break when Blackburn midfielder Keith Andrews drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from Hunt's short free-kick. Italy, who had enjoyed the larger share of the possession up until that point, did so once again after it, but without unduly troubling keeper David Forde.

It was left to substitute Simon Cox to seal the win when he slid in to meet Hunt's 90th-minute cross. Hunt was one of of two men - central defender Darren O'Dea was the other - who were doubts before the game, but they were desperate to play and Trapattoni admitted that he wished their attitude would rub off on some of those who withdrew from the squad because of fitness concerns.

He said: "They [Hunt and O'Dea] showed they have the heart to play, a heart that a lot of Irish players have. I wish that those who don't necessarily have the heart that it takes to be here would take the example of these players."

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli was unhappy with his team's performance on the night. He said: "We didn't play like we can and we must reflect on the defeat. We did not play like a team - each player was playing as if they were on their own. Ireland defended very well and we couldn't break down their defence."

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Topics:
#Sunderland
#Keith Andrews
#Sean St Ledger
#Blackburn Rovers
#Stephen Hunt
#Premier League
#Darren O'Dea
#Shane Long
#Simon Cox
#Stephen Hunt
#David Forde
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