Winter of discontent looming for confused Irish
Giovanni Trapattoni defended his methods yesterday after Richard Dunne questioned Ireland's tactics during their defeat to Russia on Friday night.
"I don't forbid my players from playing," Trapattoni insisted, before explaining that the long-ball strategy Ireland used at Lansdowne Road was a deliberate approach to avoid Russia's midfield.
Trapattoni was believed last night to be attempting to deal with complaints from senior members of the squad who were dismayed by the approach of the Irish team as well as the manager's failure to make any changes until an hour into the match.
At that stage, with Ireland losing 3-0, Trapattoni took Kevin Doyle off to rest him for the Slovakia game but the Wolves striker is now a major doubt for Tuesday's match.
While Dunne insisted the players were allowed to play by Trapattoni, he wondered why they weren't doing it.
"As soon as Shay [Given] gets it, we all turn our back on him and run forward and see if Kevin Doyle can head it and what else Kevin can do," Dunne said. "I think as a team we've got to help each other out a bit more and look to try and get the ball. At the moment we're just going forward, then defending, going forward, then defending. We're never going to control games if we play like that. We've got to put our foot on the ball at some stage and string five or six passes together and create chances that way rather than from setpieces or long balls all the time."
Some may wonder if Trapattoni wants to control games but Ireland will fly to Slovakia tomorrow level on points with Russia and Tuesday's opponents determined to avoid defeat.
"When we have the opportunity we play. When you play, you open the game," Trapattoni said, although it was not clear if he was in favour of this openness. All indications are that he isn't.
"We had a game-plan at the start of the game and we tried to continue it in the second half and then they scored again," Dunne said. "It was probably only a bit of luck with the long ball that gave us some input into the game and gave us a chance.
"Even when we scored, we never got the ball back until it went out for a throw or a goal kick. We never won the ball back. We weren't going to score a wonderful goal tonight. We were only going to score from a long ball and see what would happen."
Ireland may have created some drama with their two goals in the second half but all in the Irish camp conceded that they deserved nothing from the game.
"It was a decent comeback but we could have been four or five down before then," Dunne said. "We always knew if we got a goal back we could put on a bit or pressure but we never really deserved to get a draw out of the game."
Trapattoni said he was "very, very confident" ahead of Tuesday's game and pointed out that the team played better away from home.
He will consider some changes for the game but there will be no change in formation with Trapattoni committed to a 4-4-2, in part because he feels Ireland do not have the resources to change their approach. Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle are seen as key players and a key partnership.
"They complete each other," Trapattoni said although if Doyle is absent, there may be a change of formation. If he is fit, any changes are likely to come in midfield with Keith Fahey the most likely replacement for a wide man.
Dunne says the players need more belief. "The players who come here, everybody tries their best, it's just having confidence when we go out and play. We're all probably of the same ability, most of us. It's about having the confidence to play when we do get the ball."
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