Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 April 2018

Trap eager for another roll as FAI hit jackpot

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A short-term cash boost to the FAI, but the road to Brazil is paved with tricky obstacles after an intriguing World Cup draw in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday evening.

John Delaney believes that landing Germany as top seeds will make this qualifying group worth €6m more than the ongoing European Championship campaign.

The additional revenue could be a factor in deciding how much the FAI are willing to spend on the manager who will lead them into a campaign, which is 13 months away.

Giovanni Trapattoni's fate essentially hinges on whether he can lead Ireland to the Poland and Ukraine next summer, or come close enough to suggest he is worth another twist.

The Italian -- who watched the draw from Milan -- is clear about his desire to stay, and having managed in both Germany and Austria, his reaction to Group C was positive.

"Having won titles in Austria and Germany, there would be a sense of pride for me to lead Ireland out against countries I know very well. Even though they're not my nations, the fact I've spent so much time in them both means it's not a million miles away from going up against Italy -- and you saw our record there," said Trapattoni, with a statement that screamed party political broadcast.

"I think with this group, we can dream of success," he continued. "With all of these teams, we know that we are their equals in every sense. The only exception to that would really be Germany, who are a very strong team, but I've said many times before that the standards in international football are much closer now."

Certainly, Germany were arguably the second toughest top seed after Spain and, after their exploits in South Africa last summer with a young team, they will be viewing 2014 as a tournament they can win -- never mind the qualifying group.

Considering they have won all seven matches in a European Championship group that includes Austria and Kazakhstan, the new generation are living up to the cliched efficient stereotype.

"We are satisfied," said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff. "It's not an easy group, but we are happy that we do not have to face France. Of course, we are the favourites, but we still have to go into each match concentrated and focused."

Toppling Germany is the ambition but, realistically, Ireland must look to top the remainder, with second seeds Sweden presenting a difficult challenge, although they have a number of players approaching the end of their international careers.

That said, similar speculation exists around prominent members of the Ireland squad, like Robbie Keane and Shay Given, who will need to be coaxed into continuing.

Austria are in a transitional phase and were among the better sides available from Pot 4, while there was a sense of destiny about drawing Brian Kerr's Faroe Islands from Pot 5. The only gruelling journey came from Pot 6, with a trip to Kazakhstan sure to be taxing, with the timing essential.

Swedish manager Erik Hamren was looking towards the top three seeds, though, as he sized up his team's prospects. "Republic of Ireland will be tough," he stressed. "I expect a big fight with them, but there is no doubt that Germany are the favourites."

Trapattoni would love to square up to Sweden; he still is very suspicious of their draw with Denmark in Euro 2004 that eliminated his Italian side from the competition.

Yet he is conscious that, before he can even think about that, he must look to the autumn ahead, where Sweden could be possible play-off opponents if Ireland fall short of achieving automatic qualification for the Euros.

"We have a fantastic opportunity to qualify," stressed Trapattoni, who learned last night that John O'Shea intends to report for next week's friendly with Croatia to have a hamstring problem assessed.

Delaney will have a huge say on whether the 72-year-old will be around for a third stint. On Saturday, Delaney rejected an offer before the draw to package the second-hand rights (those for visiting broadcasters) for the World Cup campaign, a gamble which paid off.

The visit of the Germans was worth €10m in Euro 2008. A fixture meeting in Frankfurt, possibly later this month, will plot the schedule and give early indications of the value. Trapattoni would prefer to avoid an early clash with the Germans.

"From a financial perspective, there's roughly about €6m of an incremental above our current contracts out of this group," said Delaney, who can relax ahead of future draws, with a centralised UEFA deal kicking in for four years from 2014.

"I don't think there's any draws that would get us €10m a year (the value of UEFA deal)," he said. "But, in terms of a last roll of the dice, this is good financially. It also gives us a big team coming to Dublin, so in terms of selling out the Aviva and selling season tickets, it's more than helpful."

The million dollar question, of course, is whether the current management will be in place for those crowd-pullers.

"That's for another day," said Delaney, delivering what is by now a stock answer. "It's a matter for the board and, as soon as the board discuss it and make a decision, we'll let that be known to the Irish public.

"We're very pleased with Giovanni, but the Euros are much more relevant now."

Irish Independent

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