Posts Tagged ‘Trapattoni|World Cup|FAI|soccer’

Let's be honest, the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Brazil is meaningless. There is little to be gained from it other than the financial reward of playing against the five-time world champions. It isn't even taking place on Irish soil.

But the FAI could do with some extra pocket money after Ireland missed out on reaching this summer's World Cup, so it is hard to blame them for agreeing to this fixture despite it being staged in London.

However, all is not lost. If Giovanni Trapattoni uses the game as a friendly should be used (try a new formation, blood new players etc) then it will be worthwhile after all.

There was certainly an indication that the Ireland manager was going to do that when he included three debutants in his squad, but his team selection is not one that would inspire the average fan to tune in.

Shake it up in defence

By now, Trapattoni and every Irish supporter knows what Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Kevin Kilbane can do. Okay, it is good to have them in each squad to keep the team spirit high and ensure all of the players know what way they play, but do they have to play in every game?

Dunne is carrying a knock from the Carling Cup final, so he is expected to miss out. But Given and Kilbane are marked down to start the game. Would it not be better to give Kieren Westwood and either Stephen Kelly or Greg Cunningham a chance to prove themselves from the start?

Also, it is about time that Trapattoni realised that Paul McShane is not of international standard. Whether he is used as a right-back or centre-back there are several players not even in the current squad that should be ahead of him in the pecking order.

The Irish backline needs reinforcements. That is why Portsmouth's Marc Wilson and Manchester City's Cunningham were called in. But it is pointless calling them in unless you are going to give them a taste of international football.

Altering the shape should be looked at

Okay, Trapattoni has his 4-4-2 system that relies on a particular brand of football. That is fair enough. He has enjoyed a hugely successful career with it and almost got Ireland to South Africa by sticking to it. Although there is always room for a little tweaking.

The inclusion of Wigan Athletic playmaker James McCarthy opens up a whole new debate over whether Trapattoni should shape his team around this mercurial talent or try to slot him into an existing position.

Perhaps, a slight change of formation in the second-half against Brazil could be worth looking at. A switch to a 4-4-1-1 system would definitely suit McCarthy as he could play just behind the main striker (who should be Leon Best as we know what Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle can do) and roam around in a free role.

This is why teams play friendly games, so they can experiment with players and systems. If Trapattoni chooses not to mix things up, then this will truly be a dull affair - just like when Ireland last played Brazil in Croke Park.
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The speculation may have cranked up, although the fear that Giovanni Trapattoni was about to walk away from his position as Republic of Ireland manager never even ventured near an alarming rate.

Nigeria joined the queue of the teams trying to prise the wily Italian away from his contract with the FAI and they have discovered, like Turkey and South Africa before them, that they haven't got enough to even make him even ponder their offers.

The only team who had a real chance of landing the 70-year-old was Juventus. The Turin club asked him to take charge until the end of the season, but he turned down their advances despite admitting that he was intrigued.

Trapattoni has an affinity with the club after managing them in two different spells, where he led them to almost every single trophy`. So the threat of him linking up with a Serie A club is always going to be there. He is still based in Milan after all.

However, he intends to see out his contract with Ireland, which runs until the end of the 2012 European Championships. So the fear that he might quit his current job can now be quashed as he is going nowhere.......for now.

Still a long way to go

Perhaps the main reason why Trapattoni will not want to end his Irish adventure just yet is because he has yet to achieve anything with them. Yes, the team got through their World Cup qualifying group undefeated and almost beat France in a play-off. But the fact remains that he has not yet guided Ireland to a major tournament.

A manager like Trapattoni prides himself on results, so he will be eager to have something added to his CV that acts as a real achievement with Ireland. After all, he took the job with the hope of following the example of Greece in 2004 and winning a big trophy with an under-rated team.

The draw for the Euro 2012 qualifiers was kind to Ireland, so that should act as another reason why he sees no reason to sever ties with the FAI. He knows that his team can top their group.

Yet there is still a long way to go in order to seal a place at the finals in Poland and Ukraine. A lot of hard work will have to be done, but he is the ideal man to lead the charge as he is determined to succeed with Ireland - especially after just missing out on this summer's World Cup.

Wanted: Experienced link man needed

Liam Brady announced this week that he would not be renewing his contract to stay on with the Irish management team. He will be a loss as the former Arsenal ace acted as the link man between the players and the Italian speaking coaches (Trapattoni, Marco Tardelli, Fausto Rossi).

While many will view Brady's role as easy to fill, they should remember that he had a close bond with both Trapattoni and Tardelli, plus he also speaks fluent Italian. On top of that, he has a good knowledge of Irish players.

So his replacement - please don't let it be Don Givens - has a very big void to fill. Their Italian doesn't have to be perfect, but they have to be able to create a rapport with the players so that he can relay their feelings or frustrations to Trapattoni.

It is hard to pick out people who would be ideal for this role, so we'll wait to see if an appointment is made before speculating. Nevertheless, it is a role that carries a great deal of importance and Trapattoni will be eager to fill it sooner rather than later.

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All of the talk of late has been of who will be the next player to suddenly discover his Irish roots and make himself available for Giovanni Trapattoni's squad ahead of some upcoming friendly games.

Some might say that there is an inevitability about this recruitment process due to Ireland being such a small nation that relies on exporting its best players to the UK, but is still this the case?

While relying on players that feature in England and Scotland will be something that should continue for years to come, there is an argument to be made about continually looking to convert those that have vague Irish links.

Kevin Kilbane, a man born in England to Irish parents and winner of over 100 senior caps, believes that the so-called 'Granny rule' limits the international opportunities of those who are perhaps more entitled to them.

So should Mr. Trapattoni look to convince certain English players to switch allegiance if it helps to improve the Irish squad? Or should he look to work with those with more direct Irish origins?

Long line of success stories

Let's not be disrespectful to those who have represented Ireland down through the years. Who knows if The Boys In Green would ever have qualified for a World Cup if they didn't have players who changed over.

Of course, part of the reason why so many have gone on to represent Ireland is due to the fact that they were deemed not good enough to win caps for England or other nations, but for every Jonathan Macken, there has been an Andy Townsend.

The success rate of converting players is surprisingly high, especially since there has been so many experiments under Jack Charlton, Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton and Trapattoni.

With so many making that switch, it has meant that certain Irish players have missed out on caps that surely would have come their way. Although is it being ungrateful of the success achieved with those that were converted to even question the process?

Most certainly not. It is a debate that should be discussed, especially if there are young Irish players that deserve a chance at senior level who might find themselves being overlooked by players who are not necessarily that much better than they are.

The new contenders

It has been suggested that Mr. Trapattoni has told the FAI to ready the paperwork for Kyle Naughton (Tottenham Hotspur), Kevin Nolan (Newcastle United), Jamie O'Hara (Portsmouth), and Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion).

Allow us to take a closer look at each of the four players that might be next to follow the likes of Kieren Westwood, Sean St Ledger, Liam Lawrence and Leon Best into the Irish squad.

Kyle Naughton is a young full-back who made the breakthrough at Sheffield United before being snapped up by Spurs. He has exciting pace and likes to break forward in the style of a modern wing-back, but his defensive qualities need to be honed. The players that he might be keeping out of the squad would be Kevin Foley (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Brendan Moloney (Notts County) and Cian Hughton (Lincoln City).

Jamie O'Hara is contracted to Spurs, but is currently starring on loan with Portsmouth. He has one goal and two assists in the league, although it is his tenacity in midfield that makes him stand out. Kevin Nolan has been impressive for Newcastle this season and appears to have rediscovered the kind of form that first alerted the FAI to his Irish links. The players that both might be keeping out of the squad would be Owen Garvan (Ipswich Town), Chris McCann (Burnley), Stephen Quinn (Sheffield United), Keith Fahey (Birmingham City), Gary Deegan (Coventry City), David Meyler (Sunderland) and James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic).

Simon Cox is a tricky striker, who lives up to the tag of being a poacher that gets all types of goals. Following a superb period at Swindon Town, he was being chased by several clubs before opting to join West Brom. A good prospect that would be different to the strikers currently in the Irish set-up. The players that he might be keeping out of the squad would be Chris F-a-g-a-n (Lincoln City), Alan Judge (Plymouth Argyle), Cillian Sheridan (Plymouth Argyle), Kurtis Byrne (Hibernian) and Paddy Madden (Bohemians).

In conclusion, there could be need for O'Hara and maybe Cox, but players like Foley, Garvan, McCann and Fahey should all be ahead in the pecking order of Naughton and Nolan. The overall point though is that there are plenty of talented Irish players to call upon rather than drafting in others that are not exactly prized assets.
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After ridiculing Ireland in front of the world's media with the 'they asked to be the 33rd team' jibe, Fifa have finally offered the FAI some crumbs after their pleas to get something, anything from the top table.

The promise of receiving some 'moral compensation' bemused everyone until it was revealed that the world governing body of football wanted to give the Irish a Fair Play Award. Thankfully the FAI politely declined the offer.

However, they did accept an invitation to take on Brazil in a meaningless friendly. So instead of getting what they wanted, they are quite prepared to settle for anything at all even if it is a match that might not take place on Irish shores.

Some people just don't know when to give something up. After rejecting the award, the FAI should have done the same with the Brazil friendly.

Time to close shut this ugly chapter

For those that have yet to accept it, Ireland are not going to be involved in the 2010 World Cup. Yes, they came close to qualifying, but that doesn't mean they are entitled to anything due to that near miss and a controversial winner against them.

Fifa wanted to make up for the mess they created when putting Sepp Blatter in front of a microphone by handing out a Fair Play Award. For what? For complaining that Thierry Henry had handled the ball? For the Irish fans taking the defeat on the chin and not smashing up Paris? For claiming a controversial penalty against Georgia? Oh wait......we're not supposed to mention that one.

What a mockery this moral compensation has made of Irish international football. It will take a long time before other nations view The Boys In Green as anything other than the one's who bitched and whined after they lost in qualifying.

It was clear when Fifa changed the rules about play-off seeding that they don't care about the so-called 'smaller' nations, so why persist with the pleading? It doesn't do anyone any good. Let's move on, please!

Samba beat won't make a difference

Remember when Ireland played Brazil in a friendly in Croke Park in February 2008? Ah you do. Dunga's men won 1-0 with Robinho scoring the winner. Don Givens was in charge of the Irish team. Still doesn't ring a bell? Want to know why? Because it was a mind numbingly boring game, that's way.

The South Americans came in for the glamorous fixture, yet few pulses were set racing. It was a tame affair and that is exactly what this new friendly will be. Except it might not even be held in Ireland. Yes, an Irish friendly taking place in England at a time when neither team will want to select their star players. Pointless, huh?

Of course, Ireland have played a few friendlies in London over the past few hours, but that was because they were used as competitive warm-up games and the type of opposition (Colombia, Nigeria) would not have lured in a big crowd in Dublin. This Brazil friendly is different, it is meant to be an alluring money-spinning game.

If Giovanni Trapattoni wanted a friendly game to test out some fringe players then he would have surely chosen Denmark, Greece or Switzerland - three teams involved in the World Cup that Ireland could face in the 2012 European Championship qualifiers.

The sooner the better that qualifying campaign kicks off and everyone can banish this moral compensation debacle to the back of our minds.
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In case you are wondering, yes the saga of the Republic of Ireland almost reaching the 2010 World Cup but the FAI not accepting that, getting the support of the global football community for an act of injustice in Paris, then becoming a laughing stock amongst the same crowd for pleading for a place in the finals is still ongoing.

Perhaps in a few years time people will all look back on this whole episode and chuckle at the frivolous nature of it all. Although while it is still being dragged out in full view of the world's media, Irish football supporters have every reason to feel embarrassed.

With the draw for the World Cup group stages set to take place on Friday, other nations have been scratching their heads in bemusement as to why Ireland are still asking if they can be involved? Didn't anyone tell them that France went through?

Of course, things went a lot deeper than that as the FAI appealed to have the play-off match replayed and the debate of introducing video technology was dragged out to make its annual appearance. Yet, the result still stood out. France qualified, Ireland didn't.

The image of the FAI delegation team nervously approaching Fifa to ask for something that they knew they clearly were never going to get reminds of Oliver Twist requesting some more gruel. Both should have known better.

Ah, Mr. Blatter.......Have you come to apologise?

If there is one thing that Sepp Blatter has made clear throughout his time as Fifa President it is that he suffers from moments of speaking without thinking. Most people have a friend or someone that they know who continually says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Well it is best to look at Mr. Blatter in the same light.

Every year he produces some sort of gaffe that is the equivalent of an outrageous own goal on a Danny Baker dvd that people just can't seem to figure out how it happened, but most importantly why it happened. Shouldn't he have cleared the ball rather than trying to spin round and backheel it past the striker? Isn't that something a high ranking official shouldn't be talking about? Yes, but it happens.

For Mr. Blatter to belittle the FAI, Irish football, and the Irish people with his remark earlier this week says more about how Fifa treat the 'smaller' nations in the world game than it does of a 73-year-old yet again saying something he shouldn't have in a tone that was deemed offensive.

However, he said it and has since apologised, but how Ireland became a laughing stock to the global media in the first place suggests that the FAI approached their meeting with Fifa in a small-minded fashion.

Damn That Number 33

No it's not another bad John Cusack movie, but a number that will be forever associated with Irish international football - for all of the wrong reasons.

Before we go any further, let's roll out the facts........Ireland played France in a two-legged play-off to seal qualification for the 2010 World Cup. They lost the first leg 1-0 at home. Robbie Keane scored to make it 1-1 (level on away goals too). The game stretched into extra-time. Thierry Henry handled the ball in the build-up to William Gallas' winner. The referee didn't see it, the linesman didn't see it, everyone else did. Full-time whistle sounds. France go through.

Meshed in the middle there was a part that bended the rules in favour of Les Bleus. Okay, so an appeal is lodged. But the French Football Federation are not interested in a replay, neither are Fifa. Case closed. Or so it should be.

Somewhere between that appeal being shot down like a clay pigeon on a summer's day and the march to the not-so-noble table that Fifa occupy there is a proposal dreamed up that Ireland could become the 33rd team in next summer's World Cup.

Shouldn't that thought have been dismissed amongst the FAI delegates before they even entered that meeting? Yes, the French winner was suspect and should not have stood, but that is just being silly - even if it was mentioned in a private meeting.

Time to get some pride back

The excellent work done by Giovanni Trapattoni and his team throughout the qualifying campaign rightly deserves much credit. It also allows the expectations to rise a little higher ahead of the qualifiers for the 2012 European Championships.

Hopefully the focus will switch to the football soon enough and this panto act, despite being the season for it, will be brought to a close. There is a lot for Irish fans to look forward to, so the sulking of what happened in Paris needs to stop. The rest of the world have accepted what happened, it is about time Ireland did too.

With the Aviva Stadium (Lansdowne Road Part II) due to open over the coming months and some friendly games for Trapattoni to experiment in, there should be plenty of opportunities for pride to be restored to Irish international football.
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The aftermath of Wednesday's World Cup qualifying play-off between the Republic of Ireland and France has been nothing short of chaotic.

From the tirade launched against Thierry Henry to the debate over video technology to a quite surreal press conference with Giovanni Trapattoni saying one thing and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney saying another, it has been a whirlwind adventure.

Calls for a replay to be staged are bound to echo through the long-winding corridors of FIFA's Swiss headquarters without any positive message being sent back. Ireland need to move on.

Just like a bad relationship break-up one side is refusing to come to terms that it is all over. Life has gone, but still they cling onto the hope that things can change and the clock can go back to right the wrongs.

Henry has said that there should be a replay (albeit after FIFA said there wouldn't be), but it is over with now. Trapattoni's team were cruelly denied a place in the World Cup, but that is the harsh reality that the Irish nation have to come to terms with.

Missed chances in the game

For those baying for Henry's blood, they should take some time out of their pointless hunt to watch the footage of the game again.

If they did, then they would acknowledge the fact that Ireland should have killed off their more high profile hosts in normal time. Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, John O'Shea, and Damien Duff all failed to convert chances that would have settled the tie.

Okay, Hugo Lloris made two fine saves, but surely the finishing of that quartet has to be looked at. It is not often in international football that opportunities like that fall for a team like Ireland, so they should have made the most of them.

They didn't score more than once and that is why the game stretched into extra-time. By that stage the men wearing white jerseys were understandably tiring. Of course, there is always the possibilty that they could have scored again or won on penalties, but it never got that far.

We need to talk about McShane

This blog tries to be as fair as possible when reviewing the performances of players, yet there are some (just a select few) that inspire little confidence when they take to the pitch.

Paul McShane falls into that bracket. The Hull City defender does not appear to have the speed, game intelligence, self awareness, or skills to perform on the international stage.

Rather than go on and on about Henry's blatant handball, why not have a closer look at how his marker, Mr. McShane, reacted to the danger of Florent Malouda's free-kick that ultimately led to William Gallas' goal?

The Irish defender, on as a replacement for the injured O'Shea, chose not to attack the ball in the air, then made the unforgiveable error of allowing the ball to bounce in his own box, was caught on the wrong side of his marker, and did not get anywhere near blocking the cross.

It was terrible defending. But he was not alone. Kevin Kilbane also lost track of Gallas and could have intercepted the cross if he was more focused. Yes, Henry did handle the ball, but players have to play to the referee's whistle and they could have prevented that goal from going in.

Positive steps have been taken

As everyone continues to have their say about what happened in the Stade de France, very few have acknowledged just how well Trapattoni's team did throughout their qualifying campaign.

Not only did they twice draw with the world champions (Italy), but they claimed excellent results against Bulgaria, Georgia, Montenegro, and Cyprus - as well as out-performing the runners-up in the last world cup (France).

Trapattoni has done an excellent job and deserves a huge amount of credit for it. The future is certainly something to look forward to as he attempts to guide them to the 2012 European Championships.


Thanks for all of the comments posted on the previous blog entries. Feel free to ask questions or make more comments.

Cedthehead: Good point about the extra referees that Uefa have trialled. I'm yet to be convinced on it, but it is definitely something to explore.

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There are moments in football when one just cannot believe what they have witnessed. The Republic of Ireland players felt that sense of shock on Wednesday evening as one of the best performances they have produced was overshadowed by a goal that should never have been.

Nobody, including the man himself, will deny that Thierry Henry handled the ball in the lead-up to William Gallas' extra-time winner for France, yet there was little that the Irish could do. They appealed to Swedish referee Martin Hansson and tried to score a goal of their own, but it was too late to get back up off the canvas following that nasty suckerpunch that will sting for some time to come.

France march on to South Africa, while Ireland are left wondering what might have been. It is a cruel way for the qualifying campaign to finish up, especially after out-playing their more fancied opponents, but sadly that is how it ends.

What the Irish players, coaching staff, fans, and media can all take from that game in the Stade de France is a positive performance that could and should lead to better things for this team.

Trap's tactics were spot on

Having lost the first leg of their play-off, Ireland simply needed to score in Paris. They did just that with a fine goal that started with an interception from John O'Shea, led to some short passing in midfield, before Kevin Kilbane chipped a delightful ball over the top for Damien Duff, who then picked out Robbie Keane to slot in.

It was a goal that summed up how the team played overall. They worked for each other, created openings for themselves, pushed their hosts back, and took advantage of France's failings. This was repeated several times throughout the game, but only once did they score.

Trapattoni encouraged his players to put the pressure on higher up the pitch. This caused discomfort for Les Bleus, because even though the Irish were now playing a little further away from their goal they were still doing an excellent job of man-marking the attacking trio of Henry, Nicolas Anelka, and Yoann Gourcuff.

For all of the criticism lobbed at the Irish manager over the past year, this performance showed why he was right all of the time to persist with his preferred 4-4-2 system. It may not have led to World Cup qualification, but the progress has been made and now Ireland can grow stronger as a team.

Duff and Lawrence delivered when it mattered

As highlighted in numerous posts on this blog, wingplay is a huge factor in Trapattoni's system. It was pointed out that Duff and Liam Lawrence needed to play well in this second leg if Ireland were to have any chance of upsetting the odds and they did just that.

Combining a tireless work ethic with a willingness to break forward (whilst never neglecting their defensive duties) the two wingers were the bright sparks throughout. From Lawrence's cross to pick out Kevin Doyle on 26 minutes to Duff's chance that Hugo Lloris saved on the hour mark, they consistently picked holes in the French defence.

Duff has emerged as a favourite amongst Irish supporters due to his many years of service and memories of his dazzling trickery. But he hasn't always delivered for Trapattoni. In Paris, however, he certainly did and deserves a huge amount of credit for how he played.

Lawrence too was outstanding. The Stoke City man created the most chances for his team and looked confident whenever in possession. He should have scooped the Man of the Match award.

Never a goal, but forget video technology

It is obvious that Gallas' goal should never have been allowed, but the talk of bringing in video technology is not something that this blog would be in favour of despite the injustice served out to Ireland.

By introducing that sort of technology it would slow down a game that is not designed to have the stop-start nature of rugby, cricket, or tennis. The game needs to be free-flowing and not encouraged to be stopped numerous times whenever a player thinks that a decision needs to be inspected more closely.

Instead, what should happen is that Fifa and Uefa clamp down on those who blatantly break the rules. Until that happens then teams will suffer the same fate as Ireland and feel let down by the game.

Video technology in football is a huge debate and perhaps this blog will revisit the topic again, but for now the focus should be on well Trapattoni's team played in Paris and throughout the qualifying campaign.

To come within minutes of reaching South Africa says a huge amount about how well the manager has done since taking over. He has lifted Irish international football out of the doldrums and deserves to be praised for that.
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