Ireland were demolished 6-1 by Germany in a qualifier last night, and the World Cup in Brazil could currently not look further away.
Those Irish supporting viewers will readily admit that it was painful to watch. Not for a generation has Ireland experienced such a heavy defeat when Austria knocked six past them in 1971.
Last night’s horror show may have reverberations that extend way past the result. It may well have serious implications for Irish qualification hopes, and, justifiably, the short term future of veteran manager Giovanni Trapattoni
Yesterday’s 6-1 defeat at the hands of Germany was just the latest in a set of dismal displays for the Irish national team . They have picked up just two wins in their previous ten matches; a 4-1 meaningless victory in an unnecessary friendly against Oman, and a 2-1 win over lowly Kazakhstan last month, thanks to two last minute goals.
Four months ago, Ireland were readying for their first match of Euro 2012 against Croatia. Irish fans across the world were filled with blind optimism, and possessed a genuine belief that they could qualify from a group containing world champions Spain and eventual runners-up Italy.
Within 5 minutes of that opening game, the dream was over after Mario Mandzukic headed the ball past a flat footed Shay Given. What followed was a debacle. Ireland were handed a footballing lesson against the Spanish, and in their final group game against Italy, more of a fuss was made about the jovial Irish support rather than the clueless performance on the pitch.
It was a series of performances in which sacking the manager would have been entirely justified. However, given the intelligence of those at the FAI, Trapattoni was handed a new contract before the tournament, and so he was safe to guide Ireland through world cup qualification.
Now, it seems as though Ireland are stuck with an aging manager that insists on sending his team out to avoid defeat.
It is not necessarily the series of score lines that urge fans to campaign for a backroom upheaval, it is more the baffling team selections and dour tactics that Trap insists on using. Following Ireland’s exit at Euro 2012, the senior players of the squad decided to call it a day and hand responsibility over to the younger generation.
Damien Duff and Shay Given announced their retirement from International football. Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne decided to stay on, but the new qualification campaign offered Trapattoni the chance for a new start. There is a talented crop of youngsters emerging to take the place of the old guard, yet Trapattoni is insistent on picking his tried and tested players.
Last night, for example, Darren O’Dea was selected to partner John O’Shea at centre back, despite the defender now plying his trade for lowly Toronto FC in the MLS. On the bench sat Ciaran Clark, a regular this season for Aston Villa in the Premier League. Sat next to him was Shane Long, Ireland’s most talented attacker.
He starts week in, week out, for West Brom, yet he cannot cement a place in a line-up that includes Jonathan Walters and Keith Fahey. More baffling is the constant omission of left winger James McClean.
He came to prominence at the start of this year when Martin O’Neill gave him a chance in the FA Cup. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and is now a regular in a top ten Premier League side. He is a fans favourite, but Trapattoni refuses to trust him.
He managed to make the squad for Euro 2012, but was nothing more than a bit-part player. Granted, he was irresponsible in his twitter rant last month after being overlooked once again, but when the likes of Andy Keogh of Millwall is selected in front of you, you have to question your managers thinking.
Keogh may have scored the consolation for Ireland last night, but he lacks the quality to even be near the Irish starting XI.
The depressing fact for Ireland fans is that Trapattoni will more than likely keep his job for the duration of the qualification campaign. Tuesday night’s match against the Faroe Island’s offers the perfect chance for the squad to redeem themselves, but qualification seems unlikely given the presence of Sweden and Austria In group C.
Trapattoni will no doubt persist with his dire and ancient tactics, which consists of overlooking the midfield and pumping long, aimless balls up to Jonathan Walters in the hope he can do something with it.
The main issue fans have is that Ireland possess players that are capable of playing football. Ireland can send out a midfield of McGeady, Gibson, McCarthy and McClean. Those four men are all capable of keeping possession whilst also offering an attacking threat.
Shane Long would relish a midfield like that behind him. However, the strategy that Trap implements overlooks the strengths of his squad and only offers the opposition the chance to seriously hurt Ireland, as Germany proved last night.
image: © law_keven