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Trap's talk of change no more than a smokescreen

IT'S uncharted territory now for all concerned. Giovanni Trapattoni's trenchant view about what is best for Ireland has been overturned. He is now selling change as a virtue and youth as a necessity.

THE man who would rather chew his arm off than give way to popular sentiment has finally been swayed by circumstances, but don't be fooled. He's still pretending.

Trapattoni is certainly adaptable when it comes to his spiel. It began to shift in Serbia towards "the young" and this week, he has talked constantly about change.

But amidst all the talk of new beginnings, he still managed to sustain his petty little grudge against Shane Long, Ireland's form striker, and left him kicking his heels in the hope that he might give the Germans "a surprise" when he's sprung from the bench.

That's the point. Trapattoni doesn't change his mind and Long is a perfect example. He's in great form but the manager doesn't trust him so Simon Cox starts.

It's just one of a perplexing series of misadventures with young players which Trapattoni has blundered into.

In his ideal world, the same squad which finished Euro 2012 would have started this campaign and the journey would go on in the same relentlessly colourless way.

Read this quote from Trapattoni's final press conference of Euro 2012 and in this is contained his true feelings about where he wants to take Ireland.

He was asked about change and whether new faces would become part of his team and not just friendly international fodder. He stood by his selection.

"It's not loyalty, it's respect because they helped us to achieve qualification and we must give them the honour of playing.

"You are not sure that if you make changes, the result will be any different. It's 50-50. When you are sure, you can change, but only after the 90 minutes can you be sure that the change is good.

"Until now is has been good, and I can't just turn the page and forget about it. It's not professional, it is not correct."

The system delivered results, so why change?

Ridiculous

In his eyes, the team played well during the qualifying series for Euro 2012, when the opposite was often the case. The balm of qualification turned a harum-scarum and ridiculous point in Moscow into a heroic venture.

The work Dick Advocaat did to unhinge Trapattoni and his system in Moscow and at Lansdowne Road was clinical and matched subsequently by a posse of passing teams.

Trapattoni made no attempt to adapt, stubbornly sticking to a losing formula and a losing team in Poland, when the circumstances cried out for change.

But Trapattoni is a slave to his reputation and he knew that the rest of Europe was more likely to buy a story about how he brought plucky underachievers to the big show and how the bright lights dazzled his players.

So he talked about doing the tournament justice and how he would be pilloried in Germany and Spain if he rolled the dice and made four or five changes for that final game against Italy.

At that point, it was all about Trapattoni and his legacy, not about the future health of the Ireland senior international team.

Of all of the disquieting things which happened during the summer, this was the most worrying. It showed that the FAI has no real control over their senior manager and that when push comes to shove, he will do what is right for Trapattoni.

Since then, his attention to detail has been deficient. He handled the retirements of Shay Given and Damien Duff very poorly and only went to talk to Richard Dunne when the signs were ominous from Villa Park.

If he was doing his job properly, he would have known that Dunne was a very unhappy footballer in the immediate aftermath of Euro 2012 and taken action. If his eye was really on the ball, he would have toured England in July and made his case personally to Shay Given and Damien Duff.

Victim

Fate decided that Dunne and Robbie Keane would fall victim to fitness issues and would not be available for this, the most important game in the group, win lose or draw.

Win it and suddenly Brazil moves sharply into focus even at this early stage.

Draw and Ireland hold position in the mini-table for the also-rans spot and maybe edge ahead of Austria, who lost to Germany in Vienna last month.

Lose and Trapattoni will be under ferocious pressure. Change has come too late to save his bacon if Herr Löw and his players cut loose at Lansdowne Road as they are well capable of doing.

To prevent that, Trapattoni will tell his players to stick close to German shirts. He will tell his players to press and press hard and it will not be pretty.

His decision to pick three in midfield is about having enough bodies to break up the Germans' play.

James McCarthy, Keith Andrews and Keith Fahey are there to defend, nothing else.

He will tell Keiren Westwood and his centre-backs to bash it long and while John O'Shea didn't actually concede that point, he spoke about "mixing it up" when he sat beside Trapattoni yesterday. That's short-hand for the long ball when nothing else is on.

So there will not be much in the way of change. Trapattoni has selected some different faces but he wants them to do the same job.

There is not much love out there for Trapattoni at the moment. It would swell again rapidly if he can somehow conjure a win but the underlying problems will not go away.

Verdict: Republic of Ireland 1 Germany 2


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