Vien-d of the World

Some would say he was at the helm of Ireland for too long, with some ageing players, a direct style of play deemed no longer suitable for international football, and, with defeat in Austria, headed for the exit door. There are many parallels between Jack Charlton’s last days as Irish boss and the apparent imminent end of the Giovanni Trapattoni era. Vienna forms the back-drop to both.

Austrian captain Christian Fuchs leads his charges against Ireland in a do-or-die game for both sides knowing a home win could once more spell the end for a visiting Irish manager.

In the summer of 1995, Toni Polster scored twice along with Andreas Ogris at Lansdowne Road to inflict a 3-1 defeat on Jack Charlton’s Republic in the Euro 96 qualifiers, the game which followed the infamous Harry Ramsden Challenge.

The following September, the Irish team that had defeated Italy in the World Cup the previous year rolled into Vienna and were humbled by another 3-1 defeat. In a game where Mark Kennedy made his début, Peter Stoger netted a hattrick against a Paul McGrath header to shatter the Boys in Green. The result eventually sent Ireland hurtling into the Anfield play-off defeat by Holland and signalled the end of Jack’s iconic reign as Irish boss.

Current Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni looks to be seeing out his final days in the dugout following Friday’s rather gutless loss to Sweden in Dublin. His hopes of guiding the Republic to the lottery of a play-off appear doomed and only victory on Tuesday will offer a glimmer of hope.

Austria’s last gasp equaliser at the Aviva last March has also proven a hammer blow to our dreams of reaching Brazil. The evolution in Ireland’s playing style in that game and the previous week’s draw in Stockholm had given Irish fans some hope that we could stake a claim to second place in Group C.

For half an hour on Friday, that hope had turned to ecstasy as Ireland led Sweden playing a controlled and fluid possession game. Then it went out the window as the cursed long ball style returned and Sweden lapped it up to inflict the penultimate blow to our World Cup hopes.

The knock-out punch could come in Vienna.

Currently placed 55th in the FIFA world rankings, Austria last qualified for the World Cup in 1998. Their highest ever finish was third place at the 1954 tournament in Switzerland. Current boss, the Swiss born Marcel Keller has been in charge since October 2011. Prior to Friday’s 3-0 defeat to Germany, Austria had conceded just five goals in qualifying, two of those coming in Dublin.

Despite going into the group as fourth seeds, they are tied with Ireland on eleven points. With a trip to Sweden still to come for Austria, there remains the faintest chance of overhauling Ibrahimovic and co. for either side if they win on Tuesday. Otherwise, it’s good night Vienna.

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