Tuesday 20 February 2018

Job done but exit door still beckons for Trapattoni

Faroe Islands 1
Ireland 4

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WIN number 22 of the Giovanni Trapattoni era, but not enough to leave the FAI in a Catch 22 situation.

The manager sees no reason why he should not be in charge for the rest of Ireland's World Cup campaign. However, with senior figures already having made up their mind about his future, it's still a matter of when rather than if he leaves his position.

He was defiant on Tuesday, and stressed last night that he expects to be at the helm for next month's friendly with Greece. The reality, which he did acknowledge, is that the final call will come from elsewhere, and the silence from the FAI has been deafening. They have refused numerous opportunities to deliver a vote of confidence.

"I expect to be the manager," he asserted. "I know what I am capable of doing, but it's not my decision. I am a serious professional, and that will continue while I am a member of the FAI.

"Sometimes he (FAI CEO John Delaney) sends a well done, but not many times. I am not concerned whether he talks to me or not."

This was a competent display, but the context of the opposition is important. The Faroe Islands are ranked 158th in the world and kicked off here with three part-timers in their starting XI.

Beating them is hardly enough to convince the Abbotstown power-brokers to retain the three Italians whose full time commitment to their job has been questioned.

Trapattoni justified last Friday's thrashing at the hands of Germany by pointing to the visitors' standing as the second best team in the world. Alas, the fact that a Swedish team came from four goals down to secure a point against Joachim Loew's men last night would suggest they can be penetrated. Ireland have to find a supremo who can devise a coherent strategy to cope with the Swedes next March.

In Trapattoni's four and a half years in charge, Ireland have failed to defeat higher ranked opponents in a competitive setting.

There is a steep climb from the centre of Torshavn to the home of the Faroe Islands, but it's been downhill for this regime since the play-off win in Estonia 11 months ago.

Ireland scored four goals in Tallinn and repeated that achievement here, yet it's too little, too late in terms of the debate on his standing.

The news that Trapattoni had cancelled today's scheduled end-of-gathering press conference prompted another bout of reading between the lines, but he said last night that a family issue was the reason for breaking with his usual pre-match tradition.

There was nothing routine about this fixture, although there was a familiarity about how it started. An Irish tip followed by a hoof from a defender into opposition territory. On a plastic pitch, it set the tone for an uninspiring first half. Admittedly, Ireland created the better chances, but there was no pattern in terms of possession.

At the start of Trapattoni's tenure, his team developed a welcome habit of scoring early away from home. They might have done so in the 12th minute here when a short corner was worked from the sprightly Robbie Brady to Aiden McGeady. His accurate cross found the unmarked Keith Andrews, who inexplicably missed the target from six yards.

Criticised

McGeady, often criticised for his end product, then produced another fine delivery that Jon Walters steered over the crossbar. The Stoke striker was also denied by the 'keeper in the only move of the half that involved a positive contribution from skipper Robbie Keane.

The Faroes had their moments, although the closest they came to scoring was an attempted cross from Daniel Udsen that Keiren Westwood scrambled to safety. Otherwise, they maintained a degree of organisation, which was enough to contain a visiting side devoid of creative ideas. The back four went through the necessary motions without being knocked out of their stride. A frustrated Irish side committed unforced errors.

Seamus Coleman's introduction has been a positive of the last week, but he was guilty of switching off before the break, with Darren O'Dea saving his skin with a block to deny Joan Simun Edmundsson.

Trapattoni clearly felt that Brady, in for his first start, could have done more defensively despite a bright opening and he was called ashore at the break, with Simon Cox introduced on the right wing.

The immediate response came from the other player starting a meaningful game for the first time.

Most observers would have brought Marc Wilson to Euro 2012 and involved him from the outset last Friday. He's another young player whose relationship with the manager has been chequered, and he proved a point two minutes into the second half in unlikely fashion.

Cutting inside from the left wing, the Antrim man made the decision to unleash from 25 yards and a powerful attempt aided by a deflection off Jonas Tor Naes sailed into the top corner past the flailing Gunnar Nielsen.

Relief on the bench, and there was further joy seven minutes later. This time, Wilson played the role of provider, lofting a ball towards the far post where a looping Walters header eluded Nielsen. The 'keeper might have been distracted by the presence of Keane, who wheeled away alone to celebrate like a man who believed he'd added a final touch. Replays suggested otherwise, but Keane maintained his stance afterwards.

The catalyst for Ireland to press on and rack up a scoreline that would somehow prompt the FAI into a rethink?

Not quite. Instead, the Faroese belied suspicions they would be knocked out by the sucker-punch, and reduced the deficit at the midpoint of the half. Controlled build-up play culminated with a cross from Naes and an accurate header from substitute Arnbjorn Hansen who reacted better than John O'Shea.

It led to five nervy minutes before a Faroes gaffe restored Ireland's two-goal cushion. Walters, who was a menace to the natives in the second half, broke down the left and clipped a cross that was just behind McGeady. Luckily, the backtracking Pol Johannus Justinussen threw out his left foot and knocked it past Nielsen.

The three points were safe, and a gloss was applied to the scoreline at the death when O'Dea rose to meet a McGeady corner and picked a spot that was outside the reach of the hapless home netminder.

Trapattoni doesn't think it was the last goal of the era, but the future is out of his hands.

Irish Independent

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