“Why should I resign? We’re doing a good job!” – those words from Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni were ‘greeted’ with a mumbling of discontent from a packed press room at Saturday’s post Germany ‘match’ press conference.
This observer chuckled wryly (I wasn’t alone) when hearing the above quoted words and any thoughts of the next match have to be prefaced with the Friday night farce against what has to be said from the outset is a fantastic German side – one who this observer would choose to watch over World and European champions Spain.
The fat lady has cleared her throat in preparation to sing with the time having well and truly come for Trap and his merry band of Italians to return to their homeland and stop fleecing Denis O’Brien and the FAI. Were it not for the vast sum of money it would take to pay off Trapattoni, assistant manager Marco Tardelli and physical trainer Fausto Rossi (a total of some €2.5million for the 12 months remaining on their contracts – not forgetting translator Manuela Spinelli who is paid €1,000 per day she works), Trap and his merry band of Italians would have been issued with their P45s months ago.
If Ireland beat the Faroe Islands (and it’s very definitely an ‘if’), Trapattoni will state that Ireland have six points from three games and that the campaign is back on track after hitting a bump along the way, but (presuming Germany beat Sweden in Berlin), we’re level on points with the Swedes in second place in the Group.
The fact however is that if Ireland do beat the Faroese, then that will be all the more reason to put in place a new manager, because Ireland will still have a chance of qualifying from the Group, something which will definitely not be possible under the current regime. It is time for John Delaney to sit down with Trapattoni and tell him that he has taken the Irish team as far as he can but that it’s time for a new man to take charge of team affairs after the game in Tórshavn. If Trapattoni, Tardelli and Rossi have any respect for Ireland and Irish football, they will waive the multi-million euro severance fee ‘owed’ to them. They have been more than handsomely rewarded for more than long enough and it’s time to respectfully say ‘Ciao’ and not to try to take the FAI for every cent they have.
The Faroe Islands will have watched Friday night’s game at the AVIVA with glee and their confidence will be at an all time high having been very narrowly defeated by the Swedes thanks to a scrambled goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic barely 15 minutes from time after the north Atlantic minnows had led until midway through the second half.
For Ireland, with confidence at an all-time low, changes need to be made. Robbie Keane is set to return from his achilles injury, though Andy Keogh – the man who scored the last second ‘consolation’ goal against the Germans – has been left at home having sustained a concussion during Saturday training. This observer (and most others) would start Keane on the bench and start Long and Walters up top on Tuesday night. However, Keane is very much Trapattoni’s man and fitness permitting, Ireland’s record goalscorer is certain to play. For all of Trapattoni’s idiosyncrasies as Ireland manager, Keane is one player, who, rightly or wrongly, is certain to play.
A return to Trap’s traditional 4-4-2 formation is likely for Tuesday. Having scored one and conceded 10 the two occasions the Italian has broken from his tried and trusted 4-4-2 as Ireland manager, it is unlikely that the 73 year-old will change from that formation again.
Robbie Brady is thought to be set to start on Tuesday night having greatly impressed during his international debut against Oman at Craven Cottage last month. Ireland’s highest scorer at Under 21 level is indeed a cracking talent, even if he does lack first team football, though the quality of his deliveries into the box is something which is just what Ireland need. Despite only playing six minutes against the Germans, it was his corner kick which saw Keogh net Ireland’s goal.
Simon Cox is a good Championship striker, but he is not a left winger, as was clear to see on Friday night, despite the Nottingham Forest man being played on that flank for Ireland for the second time in four months (the previous time being that 4-0 horror show against Spain in Gdansk). He needs to not play in that position again.
The usually mellow Shane Long was a figure of frustration on Friday night. Arguably the in form striker in the Engish Premier League, the Tipperary native was bizarrely chosen to start on the bench on Friday night before eventually coming on to replace Keith Fahey – who was one of the few Irish players to have played well – six minutes into the second half, with the Germans already leading 2-0 and the game as good as over such was their dominance.
Following an anonymous display on Friday night, Aiden McGeady shouldn’t start and Jonathan Walters would be a live option to replace him on the right wing given what he has produced on the flank with Stoke. If Keane must play up front (as he always does under Trapattoni), then Long should join him up top with Walters on the flank. Predicting what Trapattoni will do next is folly however.
At the back, John O’Shea had a nightmare when he was caught in possession inside his own penalty area as Marco Reus picked the Waterford man’s pocket, only to be pulled back by the Sunderland man, only for the young German to be very harshly yellow carded when he should have had a penalty (and seen John O’Shea red carded) on the half hour. Due to the absence of Seán St. Ledger and Richard Dunne however means that the 32 year-old is probably the best option to fill one of the centre half slots however.
O’Shea’s colleague in the centre of defence, Darren O’Dea plays for Toronto – a side bottom of Major League Soccer and without a win from nine games this season. He was caught out on a number of occasions by the rampant Germans on Friday and really should have done better in his efforts to clear Klose’s goalbound effort off his goal-line, instead of ending up in the back of the net, along with the ball. The man who should replace the Dubliner – Ciaran Clark – hasn’t even been called up to the Irish lineup for this pair of qualifiers.
Stephen Ward was lost at left back on Friday night, though Cox’s cluelessness on the left wing did not help the Wolves’ man. Right back Séamus Coleman was a player who kept his reputation intact on Friday night, with one goal saving tackle on Tomas Müller a particular highlight.
In goal, Keiren Westwood went to ground quite early for the game clinching penalty on Friday night and he probably made things a little easier than necessary for Klose when advancing quickly on the marksman who promptly rounded the Sunderland man before netting the German’s fourth. Westwood is however the Irish goalkeeper playing at the highest level at the moment (although he is second choice at the Stadium of Light) and he is the best option to start in goal.
Faroese Men to Watch:
The North Atlantic outfit have a gem of a shot stopper in goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen, who made a number of excellent saves, particularly two from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first half as well as from Mathias Ranegie, before the Faroese eventually succumbed to a narrow defeat against Sweden on Friday night. Nielsen was on the books at Manchester City before being released by the Premier League champions shortly after they lifted the title this summer, having spent three seasons at the Etihad Stadium. He was in fact the first Faroese to play in the English Premier League when he replaced former Republic of Ireland custodian Shay Given during a game against Arsenal back in April 2010.
Rógvi Baldvinsson: On Friday night, the 22 year-old streaked through the Swedish rearguard before advancing on Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and picking his spot to give the minnows a shock lead over the Scandinavians. The swashbuckling former Bristol Rovers man can certainly play a bit, though he is currently without a club since being released by the cash strapped Pirates. Any mistakes from the Irish defence on Tuesday could well see this man pounce.
Germany will beat Sweden on Tuesday night and they will go on to comfortably win World Cup Qualifying Group C, probably some time before the campaign concludes in exactly 12 months’ time as Die Mannschaft bid to go from “world class” to world’s best in 2014. The Republic of Ireland are now in a three way fight with Sweden and Austria for second place in the Group and that second place (as well as the play-off spot that comes with it) can still be achieved by the Boys in Green - just not with Giovanni Trapattoni as manager.
With morale at an all time low as Irish players were rumored to have held clear the air meetings minus the presence of Trapattoni the morning after the Germany debacle, Ireland are likely to make heavy work of this match which will be played some 500 miles north of the northernmost tip of Scotland. The Faroese are an altogether more difficult proposition at home than on their travels, having beaten Estonia 2-0 and only being pipped 0-1 by Italy in Tórshavn during their last qualification campaign.
All that matters from this game is the result and I do expect Ireland to get over the line, if only by the narrowest of margins, with the brilliance of Robbie Brady’s deliveries into the box likely to be the difference between the teams in the end, though I expect the result of this game to be in doubt right up until the final whistle, in stark contrast to Friday night at the AVIVA. Should Ireland nick the win in Tórshavn, Germany beating Sweden in Berlin will remarkably mean that Ireland will be level on points with the Swedes in second place in the Group and still in with a chance of securing a play-off spot from the Group. That chance will continue to be realistic if Giovanni Trapatonni is not the manager by the time Ireland’s next game comes around.
PREDICTION: Faroe Islands 1-2 Republic of Ireland