McCarthy makes his point with mature display
Wigan midfielder makes most of late call-up in Stockholm
Republic of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy turns Sweden's Alexander Kacaniklic during the Group C World Cup qualifier in Stockholm. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA
Deemed surplus to requirements a matter of hours before kick-off, James McCarthy gave another glimpse of his growing maturity with perhaps his finest performance in a green shirt as Ireland claimed what could prove to be a priceless point in the Friends Stadium in Stockholm.
Having initially been overlooked by Giovanni Trapattoni with Paul Green preferred, McCarthy only received a late call-up due to an old ankle injury of Glenn Whelan’s flaring up.
And for a player not expecting to feature at the start of the day, the youngster could justifiably reflect on a job well done as his assured display at the heart of the Irish midfield earned him the man-of-the-match award.
“It’s a very tough place to come,” the Wigan player said afterwards. “They’re not passengers, you can see they are doing very well in the group. It’s a massive point to get here, and the way we’ve done it is superb.”
Playing alongside Green, who answered his many critics with an industrious shift that nullified the Swedish attacking threat, McCarthy’s composure spread throughout the side while his craft and guile going forward meant he was a constant nuisance for the hosts.
Singled out by the manager for special praise after the match – although the Italian, as ever, suggested he needs more from the player – McCarthy now hopes to have done enough to convince Trapattoni he is worthy of keeping his place against Austria on Tuesday.
“Obviously it’s down to the boss, he picks the team,” he added. “Unfortunately Glenn got injured and I got in the team so I wanted to try and prove a point and stay in the team as much as I can.
“Obviously it’s not just about me, the main thing is the team and to come here and get a superb point away from home is massive for us. It’s the boss’s call but hopefully I’ve given him a headache for Tuesday night.”
Although Ireland may not have troubled Andreas Isaksson with any direct shots on target, there was enough of a threat going forward to suggest a win may have been possible but in the end McCarthy was more than happy to have made his point.
“We had a couple of half chances and maybe could have sneaked it in the end. But to come here, and the manner in which we played, it was different class.”