Trapattoni assesses options

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Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has cast his net further afield as he prepares for next month's World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria.

The Italian on Monday named a 25-man squad for the friendly clash with Nigeria at Craven Cottage on Friday, May 29, and will select his 22 for the Group 8 trip to Sofia on June 6 from that group of players.

Trapattoni said: "Preparations for the game against Nigeria on May 29 will allow us to see some new players who have distinguished themselves during the course of the last season, and also to welcome back players like Caleb Folan and Kevin Foley."

Stoke midfielder Liam Lawrence's form in his club's successful fight for Barclays Premier League survival has been rewarded with a call-up, while there are places too for Preston defenders Eddie Nolan and Sean St Ledger, which will perhaps provide some consolation for their Coca-Cola Championship play-off disappointment.

There is also a place for 22-year-old Coventry striker Leon Best with the injured Noel Hunt missing along with Alex Bruce, Damien Delaney, Steve Finnan and Darren O'Dea from the party initially named for the last two qualifiers against Bulgaria and Italy.

Trapattoni added: "Nigeria is a powerhouse of African football, with many strong and fast players who are playing for top clubs in England and Europe.

"They will provide a challenging test before the very important World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria on June 6."

A positive result in Sofia would cement the unbeaten Republic's second-place standing in Group eight behind reigning world champions Italy. Bulgaria managed to hold Trapattoni's side to a 1-1 draw at Croke Park in March when Kevin Kilbane's late own-goal cancelled out Richard Dunne's opener.

Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan, who has become a fixture in Trapattoni's side, said: "We have done well in the qualifiers, but if we want to progress, then the Bulgaria game is the kind we need to win.

"We have to work hard and do things right. It would be unbelievable to get to the finals, but I am taking it one step at a time."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Kevin Foley
Leon Best
Steve Finnan
Stoke City
Caleb Folan
Sean St Ledger
Alex Bruce
Premier League
Preston North End
Darren O'Dea
Damien Delaney
Kevin Kilbane
Richard Dunne
Eddie Nolan
Stephen Finnan
Glenn Whelan
Coventry City
Liam Lawrence
Noel Hunt

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