Road to Rio runs out as Trapattoni faces trap door

Manager’s time with Ireland looks to be up as Ireland stutter to Swedish defeat

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan and John O’Shea dejected after Sweden’s second goal. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan and John O’Shea dejected after Sweden’s second goal. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Sat, Sep 7, 2013, 01:25

The final curtain fell with a clang and a groan and a crowd that could barely raise a boo. Ireland’s efforts to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil creaked its last with just about as grim a performance as Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign has seen. A Sweden side that wasn’t a whole pile better went home with a 2-1 victory that owed most to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who towered over the night like a lighthouse.

There can’t have been many less enjoyable nights down Lansdowne Road. Neither side came to play with any invention and long before half-time the game was the worst kind of tiresome long-ball ping-pong. The two goalkeepers David Forde and Andreas Isaksson spent the night launching kicks through the night sky onto the edge of the opposition box. It was soccer as lottery. Spin the tombola and see what comes out.

The one moment of craft in the evening came when Ibrahimovic sent Anders Svensson through on the Irish goal on 56 minutes. It was light and perfectly-weighted and when Glenn Whelan’s eagerness to chase down Svensson’s run only succeeded in playing him onside, the Swedish veteran struck to beat Forde at his near post. Ireland went the rest of the night without creating a chance.

It means that Trapattoni’s time in charge will limp to its conclusion very soon – if not in Vienna on Tuesday night then certainly next month. He was still pretty bullish afterwards, insisting that Ireland’s players did their jobs. Damned by his own words, in that case.

“We think about what the others can do for us. We obviously need to win against Austria. We might make one or two changes but the players did not play bad. When we have to recover a disadvantage, we don’t have good morale. We have to think about our attitude, our mentality, out personality.

“We have done a great job. Not a good job, a great job. We have changed many players in the squad. We have to be professional. In football anything can happen. Against Austria, we should have won the game. That would have been an extra two points. Against Sweden in Stockholm, we missed three good opportunities – Shane Long, in front of goal. This is football.”

It needed to be one of those nights. One of those where team was extension of nation, where the Swedes weren’t so much playing as wading against a tide. Unique among the managers who’ve qualified Ireland for major tournaments, Trapattoni lacked the sort of notch on the bedpost that a man could brag about. There was no equivalent to Mick McCarthy’s Netherlands or Jack Charlton’s Spain.

Affluent ease
Last night’s version of Sweden hardly belong in that sort of company. Indeed, the main question raised by their visit to Dublin was how in God’s name they managed a 4-4 draw with Germany. The affluent ease of Zlatan Ibrahimovic apart, the Swedes are every bit as lumpen as Ireland. But at least it would have been a win – when badly needed – against a serious group rival.