Trap gets breathing space... for now

Posted by Miguel Delaney

In Torshavn, there was a match that was surreal for many more reasons than the fact one of the most recent European Championship qualifiers were often being outpassed by one of the worst teams in the world.

Geovanni TrapattoniPA PhotosRepublic of Ireland manager Geovanni Trapattoni shakes hands for the last time as boss?

By the end, Ireland ultimately recovered to win 4-1 against the Faroe Islands with relative ease.
Before the game, though, news circulated that manager Giovanni Trapattoni had cancelled his usual post-match press conference for the following morning.

That may seem innocuous but it is actually unprecedented in his four-and-a-half-year reign. And, after so much speculation over the last few days, it immediately seemed to lend weight to Irish Independent reports that the Football Association of Ireland are set to dismiss Trapattoni over the next few days. That remains to be seen.

What we did see in Torshavn as a consequence, though, was a game with an exceptionally odd feel to it. On the one hand, there was the palpable sense this was the end of something. On the other, there was the fact that it is still the start of a campaign and, if any new manager is to have a chance after taking over from Trapattoni, Ireland badly needed to win.

In normal circumstances, that would have been seen as routine. Ireland, after all, were playing a country with a lesser population than Waterford Town.

Here, though, there was a real fear the Irish might have to endure a truly embarrassing result. The sad truth was that it would only have been the latest in a line of them. Ireland were coming off the back of their worst ever European Championship performance by any team and a biggest ever home defeat, having been thrashed 6-1 by Germany on Friday.

Those reverses led to a lot of doubt about the team but, more worryingly for Trapattoni, even more stories of discontent among his squad.

And, initially, the embarrassment seemed to only continue here. Although Keith Andrews and Jon Walters could and should have put Ireland into the lead, it was the Faroe Islands who actually looked more accomplished on the ball and often more threatening. The performance seemed to sum up so many of the recent flaws of the previously successful Trapattoni regime.

Against a team with vastly inferior technical ability to an Irish side filled with Premier League players, the Italian was still instructing his players to rigidly attempt a percentage-playing long-ball approach. With the third touch of the game, John O’Shea punted a ball from defence into the top right-hand corner of the pitch.

This, too, is the ultimate problem with Trapattoni. After a system that was initially solid and took Ireland to the brink of the 2010 World Cup as well as the breakthrough of Euro 2012, it has become all too obvious that some kind of evolution or change has been required.

So far, though, there has been little evidence Trapattoni has been capable of overseeing it.
Right through this game, there was an apparent push-and-pull between the past and the future. The Italian, after all, finally played the Manchester United starlet Robbie Brady but offset it with an approach in which the ball constantly bypassed him.

Indeed, the key moment illustrated this clash perfectly. Just a minute after half-time, a previously miserable Ireland took the lead with a somewhat fortuitous opening goal. Moreover, there was the identity of the scorer. Marc Wilson has previously been overlooked by Trapattoni and even been put forward as an example of the kind of poor man-management that has gradually eroded the core strengths he initially gave this team.

Here, though, the Stoke full-back was striking Ireland into a lead via a deflection. Moments afterwards, Jon Walters headed in the second and that should have been that.

Instead, though, another old flaw of the Trapattoni era arose: a constant discomfort with being ahead. Despite their previous defensive solidity, Ireland have always looked on the verge of conceding in such circumstances. Here, Arnbjorn Hansen eventually took advantage to ensure the Irish failed to keep a clean sheet for the seventh successive competitive game in succession.

From there, and for the next few minutes, Ireland were under pressure. Then, however, the Faroes buckled under it themselves.

Pol Johannes diverted an Irish cross into his own goal and gave Trapattoni breathing space again... but only on the night. For the Italian, the next few days could be even more surreal.

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