Posts Tagged ‘Trapattoni|World Cup|soccer’

The search for a scapegoat for the Republic of Ireland's defeat to France in last week's qualifying play-off didn't last long.

Giovanni Trapattoni has found himself in the firing line. As always in professional football the manager is the one that has to deal with the blame when things go wrong.

However, it is too early to criticize the Irish boss and to write off his team's chances ahead of Wednesday's second leg in Paris.

If Ireland win, then Trapattoni will be hailed as hero. If they crash out, he will be blamed. Football can be that fickle at times.

Trust in the wise one

It is far too late in the qualifying campaign to consider a change of tactics, especially with the squad of players available to the 70-year-old Italian.

He is right to stick with his 'boring' approach that saw Ireland go through their qualifying group unbeaten. The system clearly works.

Trapattoni is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the modern game, so his doubters should really be checking his back record before suggesting that he doesn't know what he is doing.

More needed from attacking quartet

As highlighted in the last blog entry, Trap's system only works when his two wingers (Liam Lawrence and Damien Duff) create the bulk of his side's chances. This is a must in the Stade de France.

Along with those two performing at their best, Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle also have to be sharp in front of goal. If either can take advantage of a half-chance or a defensive error from the French, then that could be the away goal needed to open the tie up.

Instead of following the now cliched line of suggesting that the central midfield pairing of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews are average players, those doubting this Irish team should look at established stars like Keane and Duff to deliver when it matters most.

Set-pieces could be key

Throughout the qualifying campaign Ireland have scored a lot of goals from set-pieces. It is an area where the team dominates and might be how they can find a way past French keeper Hugo Lloris.

With Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, John O'Shea, and Kevin Kilbane all able to use their height and upper body strength in these situations, every set-piece should be seen as an ideal opportunity to reignite the tie.

And defending set-pieces has also improved with every free-kick and corner in the first leg that France had being dealt with well by the Irish defence. So Trapattoni's men should look to set-pieces as a tactic to overpower Les Bleus and maybe grab a goal or two.

Prediction: France 0 Republic of Ireland 1 (with Ireland winning in extra-time)
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For anyone who watched the Republic of Ireland slip to a 1-0 defeat to France on Saturday, there was no need to search for explanations.

Even the most casual of football supporters could spot that luck wasn't going our way and we struggled to create many chances on goal.

But it would be foolish to put the result down to a stroke of bad luck - even if Nicolas Anelka's winner took a wicked deflection off Sean St Ledger - as Ireland didn't themselves any favours in large periods of the match.

Despite this, the play-off is still very much alive. If Ireland score first in Paris on Wednesday then it is game don't write this team off just yet.

In the build-up to the first leg, I pointed out that one of France's problems under the stewardship of their much maligned manager Raymond Domenech is the fact that they play as individuals rather than a team.

Anelka sulks could be our chance

This was evident again in Croke Park as Anelka sulked about the lack of support from his team-mates, Yoann Gourcuff cut a frustrated figure as Glenn Whelan tracked his every move, William Gallas argued with everyone in a blue jersey that would listen, and there was no link in their play.

Of course, when a team can rely on individuals like Anelka, Gourcuff, and Thierry Henry, there is always a chance that they alone can win the game for their 'team'. But it certainly limits their chances and it is something that Trapattoni will have picked up on.

The French are the ones under pressure Yes Ireland need to score in the Stade de France, but the pressure will be on Domenech's side.

Do they sit back and defend their away goal lead? Or do they try to increase their advantage by scoring another goal? Whichever decision they take it is bound to invite the Irish to attack.

And with the French fans renowned for turning against their own team unless they see a spirited display in the first fifteen minutes, the pressure is bound to be heaped on the hosts.

Add to that the fact that there is now some bad blood between the two sides following the post-match spat ignited by Lassana Diarra's comments. The Real Madrid midfielder foolishly gave the Irish players another reason to want to win the second leg.

Wing-play is the key to success
In the system that Trapattoni prefers there is a reliance on the two wingers to act as the creative outlets.

They are the players in his team that are expected to make runs behind opposition defenders, connect play in counter attacks, cross balls for the two strikers, and lift their team with their general trickery and runs forward.

Put simply - Damien Duff and Liam Lawrence have to contribute more going forward. Yes, Lawrence justified his starting place with a superb covering act on Patrice Evra, while Duff delighted in brief moments.

But they didn't create enough or supply much service into Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle.

Set-pieces have been the source of a lot of Irish goals in qualifying, but in open play it is down to the wingers to set up chances. If Duff and Lawrence can terrorize Bacary Sagna and Evra then it should lead to Ireland testing keeper Hugo Lloris much earlier in the match and possibly scoring that crucial away goal.

1-0 and to take it in extra-time
It is the biggest match that Ireland will have played in for a long time and not many people will expect them to overcome the former world champions on their own turf, but there is plenty for Irish fans to be enthused by going into Wednesday's decider.

For a start, the first half of the first leg was probably the best that Ireland have played under Trapattoni. They were able to nullify the threat of Henry, Gourcuff, and Anelka for the most part.

They had some decent chances of their own and have a tendency to score away from home. I am going to predict that Ireland win 1-0 in Paris, which would bring the game into extra-time and that is when their battling spirit should see them through.

It is the last chance to seal qualification and that should bring the best out of the Irish players.
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By now, you will have heard and probably discussed the many possible outcomes of Saturday's World Cup qualifying play-off between the Republic of Ireland and France.

Confidence is high amongst Irish supporters and the players have been feeding off those vibes, so predicting a home win might not be as bold as it might have been a few months ago.

We have all learned a lot about this Irish team during the qualifying campaign. But more importantly, we have learned how to deal with the bloated expectations that some have prescribed for Giovanni Trapattoni's team.

Pragmatism has seeped in recently after failing to hang on for three points in Dublin against Italy, not getting the shutters down before conceding in Sofia against Bulgaria, and struggling to beat Cyprus in Nicosia.

And the score will be......

Nevertheless, this play-off game is much different. And it is with great bravado (or is that stupidty?) zipping through the keys on this blogger's keyboard that a win can be predicted.

Yes, this blog is going to trump for a 1-0 win to Ireland. But allow me to explain the reasoning behind it before reserving a place in the asylum for yet another mad optimist.

A settled team makes a difference

Apart from one single position (right wing) Ireland know what pegs fit into what holes. Can the same be said for France? Definitely not.

Once a team is settled - in the sense that players know their positions, stick to a formation, and are able to just focus on playing to their now familiar system - it makes it easier to achieve positive results.

Players know what runs to make for each other, what foot their team-mates like to control the ball with, where exactly to swing set-pieces to, and how to move forward and backwards as a unit.

Unpredictabilty of relying on individuals

What do Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Sidney Govou, Karim Benzema, and Yoann Gourcuff all have in common?

Okay, besides the obvious that they are all French, excellent attackers, and playing for big clubs. The answer is that they have a history of sulking when things do not go their way.

The French manager Raymond Domenech has failed to mould his new band of wannabe heroes into a team, so he has to rely on their individual talents to guide his nation to South Africa.

But there is more than a hint of unpredictability when one has to trust so many players prone to spoilt child outbursts. Obviously, if they are on form they are outstanding players, but if they are marked closely then the sulking might come out in force.

And the good news is.....

The good news for Irish fans is that French midfielder Jeremy Toulalan is a serious doubt for Saturday's game. Not many will be aware of this Lyon ace, but he is one of the main reasons why Les Bleus even finished second in their group.

If he is not at 100% fitness, then that means there is a weakness at the core of Domenech's midfield. Of course, Alou Diarra or Moussa Sissoko would be decent replacements, but they do not posess the crisp passing style, hard grafting, and discplined play that Toulalan does.

A bigger plus would be

The even better news is that it looks likely that Liam Lawrence will start for Ireland. He might not be starting every game for Stoke City lately, but for Trapattoni he is an important player.

Lawrence is a better option than Stephen Hunt and Aiden McGeady because A) he is naturally right-footed and a good crosser of the ball B) he can track better than McGeady C) Hunt is seen more as an impact player by Trapattoni. One thing is for sure, John O'Shea will be happy to have Lawrence in front of him due to the winger's defensive work.

So a 1-0 win to Ireland as they look to use their settled team with a hard-working right winger to exploit the possible absence of Toulalan and expose the petulance burning inside France's creative players.

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