It’s just over 5,000 miles from Ireland to Brazil – but for the Irish football team, it might as well be a million miles because, with Giovanni Trapattoni leading the team, we haven’t got a hope of qualifying for the World Cup in 2014.
With a qualifying group containing Germany, Sweden and Austria, the challenge ahead is daunting, with second place being the ambitious target since the draw was made back in 2011.
After Friday night’s shambolic performance against minnows Kazakhstan, we are in real danger of disappearing into the footballing abyss. On the evidence of Friday night, we will be scrapping with Austria for third place in the group. But it could, and should, be very different for this group of Irish players….
Trapattoni has had an astonishing level of success throughout his long career, and I really believe we were lucky to have got him as manager back in 2008. As a footballing nation, we were in disarray after the debacle that was the Steve Staunton tenure.
Trapattoni galvanised a team who had lost all belief, organised us into a defensively solid outfit and was unlucky not to qualify for South Africa 2010.
It was a successful first campaign considering the embarrassment of the previous attempt to qualify for Euro 2008, were a 5-2 defeat against Cyprus summed up a campaign which also included a last gasp draw at home to Cyprus, a winner 4 minutes into injury time against the mighty San Marino – San Marino conceded 55 goals in this campaign – and a poor display against Wales in a 2-2 draw.
Progress continued in his second qualification campaign and we managed to grind out qualification for Euro 2012. We were lucky to have drawn Estonia in the play offs, but we did what we had to do and it was a great achievement considering we hadn’t been to a European Championships since 1988.
Yes, we were handed a tough draw for our Polish adventure, but the level of performance in all of our group games, especially against Croatia and Spain, was unacceptable. I think most Irish fans would agree, that we were always going to be up against it in Poland, but it was the manner of our defeats that was the most demoralising aspect of our brief stint at Euro 2012.
We were the worst team in the competition, and by some distance. The fact that we couldn’t put more than 5 passes together or hold onto the ball for more than 30 seconds was, and still is, extremely worrying.
To achieve anything in football, teams need to constantly progress.
Teams that win leagues and cups don’t stand still, they sign new players, or in the case of International teams, they introduce new players to the set-up, keeping older players on their toes and experiment with new tactics.
There is no doubt that the Irish team has done this under Trapattoni, with the exception of tactical experimentation, but he has taken us as far as he can. The worst part is, the players now realise this and are starting to question his methods.
In the last few months, we have had Kevin Foley declare he would never play for Trapattoni again, claiming he felt “betrayed” by the Italian in the wake of his controversial, and unfair in my opinion, omission from the final squad for Euro 2012.
We have had Trapattoni’s little spat with Shane Long, where Trapattoni branded Long “idiotic” after the striker disagreed with him about the severity of a tight muscle – Trapattoni deciding Long couldn’t play against Serbia even though he had planned to start him, while Long claimed he was fit and ready to play.
This disagreement was down to mis-communication, a reoccurring episode during Trap’s reign as Ireland manager, and could have easily been avoided.
We also had Darron Gibson refuse a call up to the squad for the Kazakhstan game because he was still upset that he spent Euro 2012 sitting on the bench and watched the likes of Paul Green get the nod ahead of him.
While I don’t agree with Gibson’s approach, I agree with him that he was hard done by, and think he should have been utilised, especially after his performances for Everton in the second half of last season.
I have played Sunday League football with players who are better than Paul Green. He is not good enough for nternational football and I’m sure Gibson’s blood was boiling at the sight of Paul Green coming on against Spain.
The Irish team were in desperate need of somebody who could hold onto possession of the ball, something Paul Green certainly can’t do, yet Gibson was constantly over looked?
Which brings me on nicely to James McClean, another player who spent most of Euro 2012 as a spectator. I have written in the past that McClean was one for the future and his time would come.
I didn’t think Trapattoni would bring him to Poland, but seen as he did, I will pose the question as to why he bothered bringing him at all? A paltry 15 minutes against Spain when we are 3-0 down is no good to anybody. He should have started him against Italy in the final game – we had nothing to play for except pride and it would have been a good test for players like McClean against top opposition.
On Friday, Trapattoni chose to, yet again, ignore the talents of James McClean when we were struggling badly for any sort of penetration against the Kazakhs.
Why play a Championship striker on the wing and leave a Premier League winger on the bench? That’s just baffling.
McClean didn’t take too kindly to it either, taking to Twitter after the game to express his opinions. If you haven’t seen the Tweet, you can read it here. No doubt this will lead to another falling out between Trap and one of his players, in which McClean will come off the worst, unless there is a swift apology.
Ireland have the players to play better football than the long ball tripe that was handed up on Friday, but the sad fact is that Trapattoni doesn’t seem to believe that. He is doing a great disservice to the Irish players.
Players like James McCarthy, Darron Gibson, James McClean, Seamus Coleman and Ciaran Clark. Players who can pass a ball, keep possession and penetrate opposition defences.
I’m sure James McCarthy woke up on Saturday morning with a sore neck, as he spent the whole match looking up in the sky at the ball being kicked over his head by Kieran Westwood and the Irish defence.
This type of football is only damaging to the younger Irish players who don’t play like this at their clubs, hence why they don’t really fit into Trapattoni’s system.
Some of Trap’s recent decisions are baffling. Has the 73 year old lost the plot?
Trapattoni has run out of ideas and he is quickly losing the respect he earned over a long, successful career in management. If this young batch of talented Irish players want to achieve anything with our national team, now is the time to be playing them.
Now is the time to use these players as the core of our team and try a system that encourages passing football that can entertain supporters and give us back a team we can be proud of.
Do it now and reap the benefits in years to come.
Maybe now is the time I stopped dreaming. It might be 5,000 miles to Brazil, but with Trapattoni in charge……it may as well be a million.
Written by Davey Butler
Follow him on Twitter @daveybutler83
Check out his excellent blog, Davey Butler’s Football Matters
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