Fahey to be third man in midfield - Tardelli
SOCCER: THE REPUBLIC of Ireland’s central midfield against the Germans will be completed by Keith Fahey, according to Marco Tardelli, who suggested yesterday the Birmingham City midfielder will be selected ahead of David Meyler for the second game of the World Cup qualifying campaign on the basis of his greater experience of playing at this level.
The Italian said Giovanni Trapattoni still has a couple of days in which to decide on the outstanding selection issues for the encounter against Germany but, when pressed on central midfield he observed: “Fahey has good experience and for Meyler, it is very early because it’s a very tough match and we need experienced players.”
The Dubliner, in fact, has played just 15 games at this level for his country but that does still gives him a very considerable edge over the Sunderland midfielder, whose club career has been severely disrupted by injuries the last few years and who only made his senior international in London a few weeks ago.
The intention to start with Fahey alongside Keith Andrews and James McCarthy confirmed what has been widely expected, that Trapattoni will look to change the shape of his side for a test very much on a par with the three group stage matches at the European Championships, all of which were lost.
Trapattoni’s assistant acknowledged the tactical switch and suggested it was intended to help counter the threat of Real Madrid star Mesut Ozil. “We need to change something against Germany because they are a very strong team and play 4-3-3,” he said. “Maybe it’s possible to play 4-3-3. If we put three midfielders on the pitch then one midfielder can be for Ozil.”
Elsewhere, Trapattoni’s considerable regard for Simon Cox was in evidence at the squad’s training session in Malahide yesterday, with the 25-year-old lining out for what was effectively the team of “probables” ahead of Jonathan Walters.
The leading candidate for the right-back position looked a little less certain, with Stephen Kelly appearing to be in pole position but Séamus Coleman still very much in contention.
As those who had been delayed by long-distance travel since the weekend joined in for the first time; Keiren Westwood missed yesterday’s session but insisted afterwards: “There’s no problem, I’ll be able to play on Friday night. I took a rest from training today and worked in the gym but it was arranged with the manager.”
Tardelli, meanwhile, dismissed the idea that the ability of improvised central defensive partnership John O’Shea and Darren O’Dea to cope with a German attack led by Miroslav Klose is a concern. “No, no they’re good players for us,” he said. “It’s the first time, maybe, that they will play together, but it’s not a big problem.”
O’Dea insists the consistency of Trapattoni’s approach to defending means any of the players who have been around the squad for a while could step into the role and he insisted the pair can hit the ground running against the three times world champions.
“He is easy to play with and if I do slot in beside him it won’t be a problem,” saidO’Dea, who, despite the club’s poor run of form, says he is much happier now he is settled into the first team set-up at Toronto.
“Eighteen months ago, we had a run of clean sheets,” he added, “and if you look at the back fours that were used, they were all different. We know from the manager what jobs we have to do. It doesn’t make a difference who goes in there.”
The difficulty is the team defended poorly in Poland against opponents far more comparable in terms of quality to this week’s opposition than some of the sides played during that run last year of eight games without conceding. “Yeah and they’re up there,” O’Dea admitted, “next to Spain and after that I think there’s a bit of a gap. You’ll not come up against teams much better than Germany but it’s against those sorts of teams that you want to test yourself.
“I don’t fear it all,” he said. “It’s why you play football. You want to play against the best. You want to be in the Champions League, you want to be in the Premier League. Every player wants to play at the best level and this is as good as it gets, international level, playing against Germany,” added O’Dea.
Chelsea midfielder Conor Clifford last night became the latest man to be drafted into the Ireland squad. The 21-year-old, who had a loan spell at Portsmouth earlier this season, has been called up amid a growing injury crisis.