Trapattoni ready for Ibra challenge
Published 15/08/2013 | 06:17
Giovanni Trapattoni is backing his Ireland side to handle the threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in next month's crucial World Cup qualifier against Sweden in Dublin.
While Ireland were playing out a goalless bore draw against Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday night, Paris St Germain striker Ibrahimovic was sending an ominous reminder of his attacking gifts by scoring a hat-trick in his country's 4-2 win over Norway.
Trapattoni was forced into defensive alterations in Cardiff with keeper David Forde and defenders Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne unavailable.
While the Italian is trying to keep a positive outlook, Forde and St Ledger face a race against time to prove their fitness for the Group C meeting, meaning Keiren Westwood and Ciaran Clark may well be called upon again.
It is difficult to know how much Trapattoni would have learned about the qualities of his keeper and back four given Wales were toothless in attack for long periods, indeed Westwood did not have a save to make until the 55th minute.
He may well have gotten more from the game had Gareth Bale, every bit as talismanic for Wales as Ibrahimovic is for the Swedes, not been absent through injury.
But, after recording a clean sheet to extend Ireland's run of form to just one defeat in eight games, Trapattoni is prepared to back the same line-up.
When asked if he would be prepared to go with the same defensive selection, he said: "Probably, for example, Ciaran Clark is a strong defender and he has a good mentality.
"John O'Shea is the captain and it is possible we will go in with the same back five as we have injuries to David Forde, Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger. We could even have another problem by them, it is sometimes like that."
But he was quick to point out that cutting the supply lines to Ibrahimovic will be the most effective way of limiting his influence as the Irish look to steal a march on the Swedes and Austria in the race, with all three sides tied on 11 points, for a play-off spot.
He said: "Ibra is a typical striker who scores a lot of goals. He is one of these special players like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
"But, even with players like that, you have to remember the team is important.
"He needs a team around him. We are one team, we all support each other and we are one on the pitch and that is our strength.
"We have a good balance to our play, the players know what I am asking of them and when we need to focus and defend, we do it.
"Obviously there is a lot of quality in individual players and Ibrahimovic can score in any situation at any moment, but we have a good attitude and mentality at the moment and we are confident."