Ireland hit dejection button
Qualification hopes in tatters and only question is will FAI drop the pilot
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni in Vienna. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
When it comes to test pilots, they talk about those with the “right stuff” still pressing buttons, pulling levers and searching for another plan even as they as they hurtle towards the ground.
Last night at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Giovanni Trapattoni pressed the same button he always does and, not for the first time, it didn’t work.
His side’s qualification hopes will not formally crash and burn until next month’s concluding fixtures but it’s entirely possible his employers will have activated the ejector seat before then.
The players argued against such an action. with John O’Shea, who along with Richard Dunne will miss the Germany game through suspension, insisting there should be time to “take stock,” rather than take “rash decisions”.
Trapattoni admitted he does not know whether he will be on the flight to Cologne but said again he will stay on until the start of June unless asked to depart by his employers.
Had his side not needed so desperately to win here their desperate efforts to secure a draw might actually been fondly remembered by the thousand or so Irish who made the journey here to watch.
For one half they held their own and for a little longer they retained some small hope of surprising their opponents with a goal against the run of play.
Still, they never actually had a shot on target over the 90 minutes and for the last half an hour were again reduced to defending deep and throwing bodies in front of the ball.
Paul Green and Séamus Coleman both blocked what looked to be certain goals, while David Forde also had to work hard to keep the visitors in it at times.
In the end, though, they simply couldn’t hold out.
With just six minutes remaining, a Christian Fuchs cross was turned tamely into the path of Austria’s star player, David Alaba, by Marc Wilson and the Bayern Munich midfielder pounced on the opportunity to power home on 10 yards.
The capacity crowd raised the roof as the Irish amongst them started to weigh up the location of their nearest exit.
Combined with Sweden’s win in Astana, the result confirms in all but a strictly mathematical sense their side’s departure from this World Cup qualifying campaign.
Being professional enough to play on the basis that “anything can happen in football”, as the Irish insisted they would here, is one thing but only a complete fantasist could entertain the idea that Trapattoni’s side, if that’s what it still is this time next month, might beat both Germany and Kazakhstan, while the Swedes lose to the Germans and the Austrians who, in turn, manage somehow take nothing home from the Faroe Islands.
Even then the Irish might well miss out on goal difference.
Trapattoni is no dreamer and the only question now, he knows, is whether the FAI move to replace him quickly or let him to see out some or all of what remains on his contract as they look to recruit his replacement.
“Through the first half this evening I thought that we could win the game because we had two very great opportunities but the game over 90 minutes we didn’t play, Austria was a little bit superior.
“We made a good game and it was a good show for the spectators but our aim was to achieve the win, no longer to qualify which was too impossible to think about after Sweden’s win in Astana.
“It (the campaign as a whole) could have been different,” he continued. “I still think about the goal that Austria scored in extra-time in Dublin. After that the qualification started to slip away for us.
“But we have started to change the team,” he said in relation to his own contribution since the European Championships.
“This squad now has many young players and it’s up to the FAI to decide whether I should continue.
“For me it’s not a problem but I will continue unless they make that decision.
His opposite number, Marcel Koller, was kind, insisting Ireland had “played a really great game,” in the first half but the Swiss acknowledged the game had turned following the introduction of Christoph Leitgeb, who Trapattoni signed to Red Bull Salzburg six years ago.
“In the beginning we had some problems getting into the game,” he said, “and in particular getting forward was very hard because the Irish defence was very strong. But for the second half we changed things and we started to create some chances.
“We had three or four that we didn’t score . . . we knew we would need patience but we were still very relieved when we did score. And now, we’re very happy to still be in this qualifying race.”