Trap's young guns face German front
WORLD CUP 2014 QUALIFYING Rep of Ireland v Germany:SOAP OPERA scriptwriters must generally resort to plane or train crashes involving half their casts in order to achieve the scale of change Giovanni Trapattoni suddenly finds himself overseeing in the early stages of this World Cup campaign.
For a man who prizes experience, his team for the game against Germany must have been a desperately difficult one to pick. The question now is whether those he has been obliged to place his faith in possess enough of the other qualities he cherishes to seize their opportunity and make their mark.
Those supporters who cried out for change in the wake of the European Championships will presumably be happy though.
With Shay Given, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane all absent for the first time in 13 years, just four of the 11 that constituted the manager’s first-choice line-up in Poland over the summer will take to the field tonight at the Aviva Stadium, with injury or retirement having accounted for the rest.
Even compared to the Spain game, when five of tonight’s side featured from the start, the scale of the overhaul is truly remarkable.
Ireland’s average age has been cut by more than five years and 354 caps worth of experience has been stripped out of the team. More than half of the caps that remain are accounted for by just two men: John O’Shea, who captains the side in Keane’s absence, and Aiden McGeady.
Inevitably, Trapattoni drove the point home for any of those at yesterday’s pre-match press conference in Malahide who had not quite grasped what he reckoned to be the seismic scale of the shift.
“In the last three years with Ireland, we are proud of what we have done,” he said, sounding just a little like a general addressing men he believes are about to bite the dust.
“Without France, we could have been at the World Cup. But now we have changed the team and brought in younger players – this team is very, very young.”
On average, in fact, its members are around 26 and a half which is not all that young at all and not, indeed, as young as the German side they are likely to face tonight. They are on average six months more youthful apiece. That, mind you, is in the event that Lukas Podolski, rather than Marco Reus, starts on the left; if not, the difference will be almost doubled.
Of course, the most worrying difference between the two groups is not their respective ages or the far greater experience of Joachim Löw’s side. Rather it is the scale of the difference between their respective capabilities.
Using any available measure of their respective talents, the Germans come out well on top. And so Trapattoni found himself talking rather vaguely yesterday about how the gap might be bridged tonight.
The players’ spirit and his new system are what he appears to be pinning his hopes on.
The former has taken a bit of hammering of late but might, we must hope, be restored by the beginnings of another unbeaten run. The latter appeared to be very much a work in progress even as the Germans touched down in Dublin yesterday.
Trapattoni was forced into yet another rethink on the personnel front by the loss to an Achilles injury of Keane and his decision to pick Jonathan Walters up front ahead of Shane Long left the West Brom striker as the standout loser in the selection process.