Trapattoni happy to make his point as Ireland’s youth take their chance
Manager satisfied with result and praises efforts of younger players against Sweden
The dynamic of the Group C qualifying table might have shifted slightly thanks to a well earned draw for Ireland here in Stockholm but it was business as usual at the manager’s post match press conference when Giovanni Trapattoni was upbeat, undefeated and slightly indecipherable.
After the unfortunate events of last summer and the pummelling his side took at home from Germany, the unbeaten bit comes with a footnote of course: Ireland have yet to lose a qualifying game on the road under the now 74-year-old Italian.
The record may not survive the calendar year but the fact it did last night and his side had become the first from this country ever to avoid defeat on Swedish soil may yet prove to be critically important when the final Group C table takes shape in October.
Had they lost last night, of course, the calls for Trapattoni’s resignation would have been loud and he, no doubt, would have produced a bit of noise himself. As it was, he came across as quietly satisfied with it all; a verdict that, at least until the Sunday journalists huddled around him at the end, seemed to be shared by those who made up the bulk of his audience.
“We started very well in the first few minutes,” he said, “and created a great opportunity for Shane Long who could have struck his shot better. After that the game was evenly balanced I think. I don’t know if Sweden was afraid of us but we were not afraid of them. It was very, very important for us not to concede a goal because until now we have played many games without losing an away game but we achieved that and we are satisfied.
The Italian was, he said, especially pleased with the way the younger and less experienced players had risen to what was a very big occasion. “We have tried to change the team slowly, slowly, slowly but against Poland we were missing some players and so we have had to change more.
“But we played well against Poland and all of our young players will take confidence from this game and improve more in the future as a result. I think in the future this can become a great team.
“For the moment, though, we have shown that choose the young ones when it is the right time. Also I said to you before the game that we would look for the moment when we could change things so as to have Hoolahan playing with one striker.
“I said that we would do this and we did. I think after this we can take more confidence, be more technical and play better football. And our goalkeeper, others were injured and we chose Forde. I have particular respect for Forde, he played well tonight and I congratulate him on his performance.
In general, he said, the pattern of play suggested not only that the young players could make their mark and the team remained hard to beat, but also that real progress is being made in terms of developing a more attractive style of play, based around the talents of the younger, more technically able players.
‘Could be better’
“Last month they showed their quality and I told them that they had played well but I told them that they could be better and tonight they have shown – and you – that that is true. I think after this we can continue to become a technically better team and to play better football.
“Any manager would take confidence from a result like this,” he said when asked how the performance and outcome might influence his side’s outlook as it faces into the rest of the campaign. We have to believe before every 90 minutes that we can do well and this performance will help but we also have to have respect for the opponents. I know these (Swedish) players, they play very well for their clubs and it will be difficult when we play them again. Austria too are good; I know, I worked there and I know their players well but this is an important result for us and a good performance and now, next week, we have a big opportunity to take another step towards the qualification position.
Swedish manager Erik Hamren looked a little less relaxed as he spoke to the press afterwards than he had on Thursday. But it was subdued stuff with a couple of dozen local reporters sitting passively as the 55-year-old sought to explain quite how it had all gone slightly wrong.
“Yeah, that’s a good question,” he said with a sign when a slightly bemused German television reporter asked where had all the confidence amassed during the remarkable last half hour in Berlin gone. “The fact is that we really aren’t an experienced team,”he said, just a little implausibly given that only one of his players has less than 25 caps and a few have more than three times that number.
“But we were up against a team too that is really good away,” he added. “If you know the statistics then you know that they haven’t lost away in two campaigns.
So we are disappointed not to win but not embarrassed. There is no shame in this result and if we win away then we have a different situation.
“Of course we would have liked to win here,” he concluded, “but it’s also possible to win in Ireland.”