By Glenn Mason

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni may be the oldest coach at Euro 2012 but he maintains he has the inquisitive mind of a 20-year-old.

The 73-year-old Italian will become the oldest manger to coach at the European Championships when his side meet Croatia on Sunday.

That game in Poznan will pit Trapattoni against a man 30 years his junior, opposition coach Slaven Bilic.

Trapattoni told reporters at his side's training base in Gdynia today that his ambition to learn new things keeps his mind fresh.

He said: "For me, the answer, it's as if I was 20. I am fresh in head, and, above all, I am hungry for the new situation.

"I watch every game, and think maybe I can discover another little situation. I want to know new things.

"I always want to know new things, get to know new things that I didn't know before. That is important. There are many important situations, the psychology.

"The general said it's an old man who isn't curious about the next news. I think I'm like a 20-year-old, with more experience."

The veteran manager likes to keep himself in shape and was seen taking part in some of the exercises at the team's training camp in Italy last week.

In response to a question about how he was feeling ahead of the game, Trapattoni joked: "I can start the game. If I return, 15 years, I can play also."

A glittering career in club management has seen Trapattoni win numerous honours in Italy, Germany, Austria and Portugal.

Yet despite that vast experience, the Italian admitted that he is still tense ahead of Ireland's first game at a major championship in ten years.

"I'm not particularly excited. I'm a little tense," he said.

"The balance of tension. I want to keep a level of tension. If the manager doesn't keep the tension, the players drop. The manager needs to keep a positive tension."

Thousands of Irish fans are expected in Poznan over the weekend to watch the side's opening game.

With a deep recession and mass unemployment sapping the country's morale, Trapattoni has stressed to his players that they must be aware of the "sacrifice" the fans are making.

He said: "I repeat, always, you must be proud about our country, our people, because they make a very big sacrifice, the money, the travel, the trip. The players know this.

"I am sure, all players before the training, I repeated this to them. Our country waits. Our supporters wait.

"Football is also 90 minutes but it's important that we guarantee them, that we guarantee our people, total and complete commitment."

Ireland have been compared by some European commentators to the Greek side that stunned football by winning Euro 2004.

Can Ireland do likewise this summer? "In my life. The rules is never say never," Trapattoni responded.

"Obviously, it's not forgotten. The dream is easy. The dream is easy. After there is 90 minutes, 90 minutes, 90 minutes. After five games, maybe the dream comes true."

Trapattoni's preferred starting XI for the match with Croatia came through another training session this morning with Shay Given edging closer to fitness.

Given took part in a full exercise between two Irish teams as the side that started against Hungary last Monday faced the rest of the squad.

Trapattini confirmed that barring injuries, the side that was given the nod in Budapest will face Slaven Bilic's men on Sunday.