Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni under more pressure than ever
Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is facing one of the toughest challenges of his career, writes Kieran Beckles
Giovanni Trapattoni is facing one of the toughest challenges of his long, successful career as he looks to get the Republic of Ireland’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign back on track – if the FAI give him the chance to do so.
Few expected Ireland to cause an upset against Germany despite having home advantage, but the manner of their 6-1 defeat at the Aviva Stadium has prompted a fresh wave of calls for the veteran boss, who earns €1.8m per year, to stand down.
The 73-year-old looks to have finally lost the dressing room, with the Men in Green producing a worryingly meek second-half display as the home side were overpowered by the three-time World Cup winners.
The discontent in the Irish camp was perhaps epitomised by Shane Long. Nottingham Forest’s Simon Cox was preferred to Long despite the West Bromwich Albion striker punishing a toiling Queens Park Rangers outfit in his last outing.
Trapattoni finally relented and introduced Long for a 49-minute cameo, and the former Reading frontman cut an unhappy figure, picking up a booking as his anger at being omitted from the starting line-up was evident for all to see.
In the immediate aftermath of Ireland’s heaviest defeat on home soil since 1931, John O’Shea’s body language and words gave a damning insight into the current turmoil.
“It’s a massive humiliation,” he said. “At home, against anybody, you don’t want to lose a match – and there’s a way to lose a match as well.”
So where is it going wrong for Trapattoni?
The former Juventus manager’s selections have never endeared themselves to the Irish supporters and frustrations are now reaching breaking point.
He rightly deserved credit for steering Ireland to their first major tournament since 2002, using a blend of established Premier League stars who were past their peak and Championship regulars and rejects such as Paul Green.
Unsurprisingly, Croatia, Italy and Spain proved too strong for an average Irish side at Euro 2012, and the travelling supporters who had envisaged a repeat of Italia 1990 at this summer’s tournament were left bitterly disappointed.
The growing unrest from Poland and Ukraine has spilled over into the current campaign among players and fans alike, and it is taking its toll on Ireland’s bid to qualify for Brazil.
Trapattoni’s man management skills have regularly been called into question throughout his four-year reign – there’s been well-documented fallouts with Darron Gibson, Kevin Foley, James McClean and Steven Reid.
His selections have also irked. The Irish manager has stubbornly resisted calls to blood exciting talents such as Ciaran Clark, Seamus Coleman, McClean and James McCarthy, despite an apparent need to replace stagnating regulars.
Coleman and McCarthy did feature against Germany and produced encouraging performances, but Trapattoni’s hand was forced due to the absence of Glenn Whelan and Richard Dunne, while he preserved with the underperforming Aiden McGeady.
The Italian favours Darren O’Dea, a regular for Major League Soccer side Toronto, over Aston Villa’s Clark, who has started every Premier League game under Paul Lambert. It defies logic.
Trapattoni’s reign cannot be deemed a failure. Ireland were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, only to be usurped by Thierry Henry’s handball, while reaching Euro 2012 was a commendable achievement.
But with a fresh pool of talent emerging, an ambitious, young manager is just what Ireland need to temper their current inertia. They will never be able to match Europe’s elite, but Trapattoni’s approach to matches against beatable sides is overly negative and outdated. Change is need to inject fresh impetus.
For now, Trapattoni remains under a contract which runs until 2014. Up next is a trip to the Faroe Islands where Sweden limped to a 2-1 victory on Friday night. And it will be a tough test for an Ireland side that has managed just three goals in competitive fixtures in 2012.
“It’s a long way to Tipperary. Germany have gone, but we are in there fighting with Austria and Sweden for qualification,” said the Ireland boss after the Germany defeat.
Trapattoni may be optimistic about Ireland’s prospects of securing second place in Group C but with a tough trip to Sweden and a home tie against Austria next spring, the veteran coach may not be making the long trip to Brazil in 2014 as Ireland manager unless there is a sharp turnaround in terms of performances and results.