Temperatures are plummeting in Stockholm and news of Trapattoni’s starting eleven has met a frosty reception among Irish fans. Much of their ire is directed at the inclusion of Paul Green in midfield but amidst the clamour to condemn the manager, Trapattoni has named possibly his most adventurous team since taking charge of the Republic. He’s also pulled off something of a transformation of the Irish squad that failed so badly in Poland. Ahead of the crunch tie with Sweden, here’s ten key talking points.
Regardless of the text message furore, the argument is that Doyle should have been retained in the squad for his past form in an Irish shirt. The Wexican rescued Ireland in Kazakhstan last year and his work-rate has never been below maximum. He is arguably the best player we have to hold up a ball, particularly when we insist on thumping long punts aimlessly up front. But Doyle is having a horrendous season at club level and, truthfully, has failed to recapture his early promise over the last few years. He’s not holding down a place in a desperately poor Wolves side who look like falling out of the Championship. Trap proved with Kevin Foley that sympathy is not high on his priorities. The argument for showing loyalty was one of the main sticks with which to beat Trapattoni during Euro 2012 qualifying.
Paul Green has come under sustained criticism since being named in the starting line-up but the reality is Green is no better or worse than the Whelan-Andrews axis that proved so inadequate in the past. Indeed, Green’s inclusion has taken the heat off his midfield partner Whelan but with the spotlight so intensely on both, they must stand-up and deliver. In the past, any combination of Whelan, Andrews, Green, or Gibson made little difference. Thankfully, we now have genuine back-up options on the bench in McCarthy and Hoolahan, and as the former Shelbourne man showed against Poland, he can come on and actually change Ireland’s style of play for the better.
If we’re justifying Doyle’s inclusion based on what he’s previously done for Ireland then is Shay Given a better choice to face Sweden than David Forde? The Millwall shot-stopper should be commended for working his way from the League of Ireland to the point where he’s earned the nod to start in a crucial World Cup qualifier. But Forde operates in the Championship, facing Championship strikers. Is it too great a leap?
In his defence, Forde played his part in a famous friendly win over Italy in Belgium in his début game. He also did well in last month’s victory over Poland. At 6ft 2, the stocky Galwegian is not the most agile guy compared to Westwood and Given. Shay Given was a world-class goalkeeper. Forde is not on that level but he’s solid and time will tell if that’s enough.
Trap’s team overhaul
Coleman, Wilson, McClean, Long. They are the names every Irish fan wanted in the team after Euro 2012. Now they are in it. What’s more, so is Ciaran Clark while James McCarthy and Wes Hoolahan, who so many called for inclusion, are now on the bench. This will be the first match McCarthy has not started for Ireland after featuring in every game since Euro 2012. Trapattoni has overhauled the playing staff with Robbie Brady and James McClean occupying the flanks. When naming Green in the line-up, Trap hinted that the Leeds player’s role was to hold when Coleman got forward. That goes against the previous philosophy that our full-backs wouldn’t budge.This team line-up is arguably his most adventurous, both as a departure from his previous selection approach, and its attacking outlook, as we’ve ever seen from Trapattoni as Ireland manager.
Left-back in the dressing room
Mark Wilson has taken the left-back spot from Stephen Ward and has returned to near full-fitness at Stoke. In the same way as Ward replaced Irish stalwart Kilbane, Trapattoni has seen fit to finally promote Wilson after their difficulties earlier in his tenure.
Trapattoni has patched things up with Stephen Kelly following their nasty spat played out in the glare of the media spotlight. As if to emphasise the determination he has for playing for his country, there was no question of Kelly ‘doing a Gibson’ and the Dubliner returned to the squad with barely an eyebrow raised.
Young players like McCarthy, McClean, and Coleman are repeatedly pictured together on the training ground laughing and joking. Judging by their Twitter interaction, there’s also clearly a camaraderie between them and it’s evident that with the loss of old hands such as Given and Duff, this is now a young Republic squad.
Robbie Keane is our in-form striker. He’s hit the ground running in MLS scoring in pre-season friendlies, the season opener, and the CONCACAF Champions League. His record compares more than favourably with Sweden’s star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic who himself called the Irish captain, ‘a great player.’
Despite his horror show against Chelsea and a couple of missed penalties, Jon Walters has bounced back at club level demonstrating his steely resolve. He’s a good option to spring from the bench and together with Long, who partners Keane in Stockholm, we have Premier League experience to aid our attack.
Trap’s last stand
The consensus is that two poor results in Stockholm and against Austria in Dublin next week could push Trapattoni out the exit door. Described as a stubborn man throughout his career, most especially since taking the Irish reins, Trapattoni has confounded many of his critics by transforming the Irish team since Euro 2012. The performances and suspect selections, however, have left the Italian teetering on the brink.
Only Seamus Coleman and John O’Shea survive from the starting eleven which was taken apart by Germany. Trapattoni’s future depends on his new team pulling off something special over the coming days.
The Green Army
Irish support has dwindled since 35,000 travelled to Poland last summer. The national football team is met with antipathy if not outright anger, while the anti-Trap fervour is as fierce as in the aftermath of the mauling by Germany. However, we are one point behind Sweden with a hell of a lot of football still to be played. If Trapattoni’s side could muster a draw in Stockholm and put Austria to the sword next week, he might succeed in getting the famed Irish support back onside and get the dream of reaching Brazil back on track
Ireland team vs Sweden:
Forde, Wilson, Clark, O’Shea, Coleman, Green, Whelan, Brady, McClean, Keane, Long