Glorious 0-0 triumph revives panel after they go Green with rage
’Sweden are no great shakes, Bill, they’re there for the taking’
Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the game
RTÉ kicked the night off with a montage of images set to the tune of Living Together , which includes the line “my life was emptiness until you came along . . . I need you to get me through the night . . . I lay my body on the line.”
This, you assumed, was a reference to Paul Green, his international career under Giovanni Trapattoni and the challenge that lay ahead of him in Stockholm, where he’d have to keep an eye on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, aka Sweden.
And it was Green and James McCarthy – the former replacing the latter in the original line-up before the dropped McCarthy became undropped in the second line-up when he replaced the not-dropped Glenn Whelan who then dropped out (you following?) – who prompted the night’s first tackle from behind.
Liam Brady reckoned picking Green wasn’t the worst decision in the world, Eamon Dunphy reckoned it wasn’t far off, particularly as it had initially led to the exclusion of McCarthy. (“Trap thinks Green is Nobby Stiles resurrected,” noted Bill). But Brady reckoned that, as manager, Trapattoni had the right to pick whoever he bloody well wanted.
Brady: “It’s his prerogative!”
Dunphy (revealing his inner Bobby Brown): “Hold on a minute! I’m telling you, it’s my prerogative . . .”
Brady: “Yeah, but you’re not picking the Irish team! It’s easy from here!”
Dunphy: “I’m analysing the match! That’s what I’m paid to do! By the way, that’s what you're paid to do as well! Not to be a PR man for Trapattoni!”
As is often the case when it kicks off in this tempestuous manner in the RTÉ studio, and potentially slanderous barbs are exchanged, John Giles scratched his ear and then lowered his gaze so it focussed fully on the desk in front of him.
“Bill, isn’t it interesting that Sweden have a lad called Safari at left-back,” he probably thought about saying by way of a peace-restoring interruption/distraction. And you’d have given anything for him then to break in to The Lion Sleeps Tonight , with Bill joining in on “wimoweh, wimoweh”. But it wasn’t to be. Giles kept his whist.
Brady: “I am NOT a PR man for Trapattoni!”
Bill (possibly personally offended by “PR man” being used as a term of abuse): “Hang on a second! Hang on a second! He’s entitled to his opinions!”
Brady: “I’m entitled to my opinions!”
Bill: “Of course you are!”
Dunphy: “Our job is to analyse Trap!”
Brady: “I think Green’s in the team because he’s the best ball-winner of all the players that he has!”
Bill: “If you were Trapattoni you would have put him in there before McCarthy?”
Brady: “Don’t keep asking me if I was Trapattoni, Bill!”
A lively start then, and you’d have settled for the Stockholm ding-dong being even a third as entertaining.
It wasn’t, to be honest, but, be truthful, how many of you predicted that glorious 0-0 triumph? Exactly. None of ye.
It all began quite encouragingly, too (although our acapella national anthem did appear to feature alternative lyrics, but no matter, it might have been an acoustic issue under the closed roof).
“I’ve seen nothing so far from Sweden that would worry me,” said Ronnie Whelan, but it should be pointed out that he declared this after three minutes, 54 seconds, so his confidence seemed a little previous.
But, crikey, we could have been two up if Robbie Keane and Shane Long hadn’t had moments that they’ll neglect to show to their grandchildren. “Are we going to rue missing those chances?” asked Ronnie, and a nation solemnly nodded.
Still: not losing at half-time. Who’d have thunk it?
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” conceded Dunphy, Brady just about resisting lighting a cigar, but Giles shrugged. “Sweden are no great shakes, Bill, they’re there for the taking.”
The second half was a little more testing, though, Ronnie beginning to fear Sweden were half decent shakes. “The game’s gone in to a funny lull,” he said, worrying that that would “help the Swedes more”.
“Dangerous times,” he added, no more dangerous than the moments he tried to pronounce Kacaniklic, almost losing his teeth in the process.
[/CROSSHEAD]But on the game went, and divil a sign of Sweden scoring, when some of us of little faith had feared a total tonking, followed by a tearful Trap bye-bye.
“I’m inclined to say fellas, oh ye of little faith,” Bill purred at full-time, but Dunphy defended himself by reminding his host that the dropped man-of-the-match McCarthy was only undropped when the undropped Whelan dropped out.
Liam smiled. Sure, his prerogative after the night that was in it.