Walters ruled out of Greece game
Soccer: Sunderland defender John O’Shea will captain the Republic of Ireland in the friendly against Greece at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, but Jonathan Walters has been ruled out of the match with a knee injury .
Walters sat out training today, along with Paul McShane (calf), but Marco Tardelli said he thought the Stoke City striker was "ready for the match". It appears not, as the FAI confirmed this afternoon the forward "will return to his club later this evening for treatment" and that no replacement will be called up.
Walters's absence will leave Giovanni Trapattoni fewer options up front. Good news, perhaps, for those who remain. West Brom striker Shane Long would appear the prime candidate to benefit.
Tardelli gave little away in his pitchside briefing this afternoon, other than that he expected some of the lesser-spotted squad members to feature at some stage.
After that, it is up to them to impress.
“We can change some players as we want to understand these new players some more,” said the Italian. “We think they are good but they must show us that they can stay with us.”
Tardelli and Trapattoni watched Long in West Brom’s 2-1 away win at Wigan on Saturday and the verdict today was that “he played well”, though on this occasion he did not find the net in the 68 minutes he was on the pitch.
“Maybe it's possible he starts the first half, maybe,” said Tardelli prior to Walters's withdrawal. “We know that he plays very well because we were there on Saturday and he played well, but also the other players are playing very well."
Asked where he might be deployed, Tardelli added: “I think Shane Long is a striker and I prefer that he plays striker, but it's possible to play on the left or the right as he is very quick. But if he starts on Wednesday it will be as a striker.”
If training is any indicator, and it often is with Trapattoni, Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark looks set to partner O'Shea in the centre of defence, while James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan appeared to be forging a partnership in front of them in midfield.
James McClean and Robbie Brady were deployed on the wings for O'Shea's side, though without enough bodies for a 22-man game, today's session, in particular, might not be as accurate a barometer as others.
Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan is available, having come through the full 90 minutes of the scoreless draw against Reading at the weekend, though Tardelli again insisted decisions had yet to be finalised.
“I don’t know, we will wait, but it's possible to try (Hoolahan) from the first half, but I don't know at this moment. We wait until Wednesday, or tomorrow with the last training.”
Greece, ranked 12th in the world, are “a very good team” and will be a “tough test”, he added.
“They have good players, like (Celtic’s Giorgios) Samaras, we know Samaras, he played against Barcelona and he played well. It’s a good test for us and a good test for the young players. For them it’s good to play in the training but it’s important to play also in the tough match.”
As the year draws to a close with this the final game before 2013, Tardelli denied it has been a “tough” 12 months and instead focused on the positives, despite a demoralising performance at Euro 2012.
“No, it’s been fantastic. For me it’s been a fantastic year. We go to play for the European Cup, that was very important for us; it had been 25 years (24) since the Irish team had achieved the results (qualified).
“For me it was a very good year, we discovered many players, many young players who are here with us. And I think that when you have big change then it’s important to have patience because w