Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 December 2017

Trap set to wing it with Brady and McClean

Ruaidhri O'Connor and Daniel McDonnell

THERE are few places where bibs are more important than Ireland training sessions under Giovanni Trapattoni.

Determining who is donning the sleeveless garments in Malahide usually gives a strong indication as to who will start the upcoming match and, for the second day in succession, the Italian gave the precious orange tops to young wingers Robbie Brady and James McClean.

The Ireland boss had previously expressed concerns that the inexperienced duo were too callow to take on a veteran Swedish outfit, but his mind appears to have been swayed as he contemplates tomorrow night's key qualifier in Stockholm.

The duo have just 12 caps between them, but all indications are that they will be given the attacking responsibility against Sweden ahead of Jon Walters, Wes Hoolahan and Andy Keogh.

The Irish wings have long been patrolled by Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady, but since the latter retired and the former got injured, they have been up for grabs and early signs were that Anthony Pilkington would make his debut on the flank tomorrow night in the Swedish capital.

After he got injured, the mantle appears about to be handed to the young men from Derry and Dublin, with 23-year-old McClean and 20-year-old Brady expected to patrol the wings in Ireland's biggest game since last summer's European Championships.

With Trapattoni likely to deploy a 4-4-2 system against the Swedes, the duo's pace and quality of ball from out wide will be of particular importance at the Friends Arena and that will heap pressure on a pair of players with limited top-level experience.

And given the lack of mobility of Ireland's central midfielders, who will be outnumbered in the centre and expected to take care of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the wide-men will also be charged with relieving pressure on those inside them.

Assistant manager Marco Tardelli insisted that the training teams are not an indication of who will play.

"I don't know if tomorrow, the boss decides on another team," he said.

"I think we have many good options, because all the players are fit and they work very well in training. Everything is possible, but the boss will decide tomorrow.

"For this match every choice is a big choice, also a difficult choice, because we have good players and we need to understand whether we need this player or another for this match. It doesn't mean that we prefer one player over another – we prefer all players.

"But it's possible sometimes to decide on one player, because we think that it's better for this match."


Sticking with the men who wore the bibs in training on Tuesday meant Trapattoni looks set to start Paul Green alongside Glenn Whelan in midfield, Ciaran Clark alongside John O'Shea in defence with Robbie Keane playing off Shane Long up front.

Tardelli suggested the Leeds midfielder Green's physical capabilities will see him edge James McCarthy out of the reckoning, with Ibrahimovic in mind.

"Paul Green is a player who is more aggressive in the midfield and McCarthy is a player who is skilful and good with his distribution. They are different players, but some times it's possible to change some things, to play Green or McCarthy."

"Aggression is the first thing for us. Because if we are without aggression, it's not good for us facing Sweden.

"Ibrahimovic plays sometimes now in midfield because he drops back to receive the ball. We need to pay attention during this situation."

Irish Independent

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