Places up for grabs as Trapattoni admits 'team needs new players'
SOCCER: International friendlyWith expectations off the pitch so low that the FAI is set to close off much of the Aviva stadium’s upper tier on Wednesday, Giovanni Trapattoni sought to drum up some in relation to the game itself with the Italian maintaining that an Ireland victory is “very important” in the wake of last month’s drubbing by the Germans.
The Greeks were pretty badly beaten by the three times world champions during the summer in Poland but still looked to have a good deal more about them going forward at times in a game that finished 4-2. Since then, they’ve taken 10 points from 12 in the new round of qualifiers but not all of their best players have been selected for the trip to Dublin.
The Italian will be missing a couple of regulars himself with Aiden McGeady and Keith Fahey having withdrawn from the squad due to a foot injury and flu respectively. In their place, Andy Keogh and Conor Clifford have been promoted from the stand-by list.
Stephen Ward (knee) as well as John O’Shea and Darren O’Dea are said to be carrying knocks too but the manager said that while the FAI’s medical staff will make the final call on their fitness, he expects them to be available, possibly as early as this morning when the squad will train again in Malahide.
Yesterday’s first session of the week there could hardly have been more low key with most of the squad doing only light recovery work after having games with their clubs on Saturday. The Italian insisted, however, there would be no shortage of will to win come kick-off time.
“The defeat against Germany was a disaster,” he said. “It is important we recovered against the Faroes. That was important. And we believe in our strength and commitment. With this situation we can think, not dream, of achieving qualification.
“But results give trust and enthusiasm. Managers know that, that they must try the new, young players and at the same moment achieve the result. The team needs new players but the FAI and the team needs results.”
Who precisely he’ll look to deliver the win remains slightly up in the air at this stage with places up for grabs in several areas it seems but James McCarthy looks almost certain to retain his place in central midfield while Wes Hoolahan might well get the opportunity he has been promised by the Italian at the game’s outset.
“We will play 4-4-1-1 but it will be offensive,” said the 73-year-old.
“We are looking to renew the team with young players like McCarthy but we always follow him (Hoolahan) because he plays well in the team. Our system at the moment is that we play two strikers but he is a serious player and he deserves this opportunity.
“I tried McCarthy behind the striker but now he is better in midfield and we choose two strikers because I think our teams needs this to score goals but it’s right to give him this opportunity.”
The comments scarcely suggest that the Dubliner features extensively in the manager’s longer term plans, unlike McCarthy who Trapattoni clearly identified yesterday as being a key figure in the team’s future development.
Séamus Coleman and Robbie Brady are both in contention to start on Wednesday as is Shane Long, according to Trapattoni, who said that the striker should be fit enough to feature after managing almost 70 minutes of West Brom’s win at Wigan on Saturday in spite of a hamstring/knee problem that has been preventing him from training of late.
Trapattoni was at Saturday’s encounter and when asked about Long talked up the speed, strength and aerial prowess (“he jumps like a kangaroo!” the manager exclaimed with what seemed like genuine awe) of a player who he still seems slightly disinclined to select. He denied, in any case, that the are any lingering issues between the pair.