Trapattoni aiming to rejig back four

John O'Shea and Wednesday's goalscorer Ciaran Clark are part of Giovanni Trapattoni's defensive plans. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

John O'Shea and Wednesday's goalscorer Ciaran Clark are part of Giovanni Trapattoni's defensive plans. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

SOCCER:Giovanni Trapattoni is unlikely to start next month’s qualifying game in Sweden with both Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger in defence even if the pair are fit enough to resume a partnership that has been a foundation of this team under the Italian since the middle of 2009.

Both are now recovering from long-term injuries; Dunne’s involves a thigh muscle, St Ledger’s a hamstring and while both are said to be approaching full fitness again, Trapattoni said yesterday that the prospect of reuniting them for the hugely important qualifying game in Stockholm increasingly looked like “a risk”.

In the wake of the win over Poland, the manager said that he would be happy to play Ciaran Clark, possibly alongside Dunne, while he hopes to have Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson available for selection.

Barring a mishap between now and then, the only defender the Italian feels is a certainty to play, however, is John O’Shea, with Trapattoni suggesting that the question is really whether he occupies one of the full-back berths or stays on in central defence.

Dunne recovering

“Richard has told me he will be ready in two weeks but I told him to take his time; we need him for next month. I hope they can all come back but if St Ledger and Dunne are available I don’t think that I would play them together, it’s a big risk for such an important game.

“But we are lucky to have John, he can play left, right or in the centre,” he added before confirming that the Sunderland defender will start somewhere in the team’s back four.

In midfield, James McCarthy looks to be a certainty to start with Trapattoni talking about the Wigan player these days in a manner that suggests he now sees the 22-year-old as being pivotal to the side’s future.

Glenn Whelan looks to be in pole position to retain his place although there are a number of alternatives. Whether Darron Gibson is one of them remains to be seen, with the player’s assertion that he was not fit to join up with the squad leaving a question mark over whether he is actually willing to return at present.

Trapattoni resisted renewed pressure regarding Wes Hoolahan and insisted that, while he has the highest regard for the Norwich player, starting him against Sweden would require a change in formation which would ultimately undermine Ireland’s chances.

“When you play with one [striker] you can still score but you need to be strong. Against teams that are technically better then you need more.”

Positive terms

Shane Long, it seems, is likely to feature prominently but Jon Walters was also mentioned in positive terms while Conor Sammon, he said, is in contention after what the manager says he viewed as a satisfactory performance.

Contrary to the impression generally given in the past, he said that Robbie Keane is not guaranteed to start in Solna.

Stephen Kelly, meanwhile, is effectively out of contention for a place in the squad, Trapattoni confirmed, after making it clear, according to the manager, that he did not want to travel unless he was going to play.

“You know what happened with Kelly?” asked Trapattoni. ‘I play or I go home!’ So go home. Paul Green? I called him late at night and he came straight away. It’s the way the Irish players need to be. They need to be happy to play for their country.

“They wouldn’t do it at their clubs. Why? Why only here? Either we have a team or a squad. Anyway, we have others, like Seamus Coleman.”

Wednesday’s performance was, he acknowledged, a very mixed bag with Poland dominating possession early on and posing a greater threat.

Later though, the home side appeared to grow in confidence and, after Trapattoni had introduced the likes of Hoolahan, Jeff Hendrick and the impressive Paul Green with an accompanying shift in the pattern of the team’s play, they eventually got on top.

“For me it was a baptism of fire,” said the 73-year-old referring to the number of relatively new players who were involved, “and they came through it well. For me it was a test and I’m happy with the way it’s gone.

“Sweden will be difficult and I’m waiting for my players to show more authority on the pitch but I believe we will see that; we can improve with these players and a few more days of training.”

Messi interruption Fan's incursion sparks Swedish security fears

The Swedish Football Association are considering installing barriers or dramatically increasing the number of security personnel at the Friends Arena in Stockholm – where next month’s World Cup qualifier against Ireland will be played .

The Swedes want to act after a fan ran onto the pitch towards the end of Wednesday’s friendly 3-2 defeat by Argentina to hug and kiss Lionel Messi.

The supporter has a number of convictions for similar incidents, the latest picked up last year after a pitch invasion at a league game. He was involved in a similar stunt in 2006 when Ronaldinho played with Brazil against Ecuador in a friendly staged in Sweden.

The Swedish FA is well aware of the scale of the problems such incidents can cause. In 2007 a Danish fan attacked the referee at the Parken stadium after Sweden had been awarded a penalty late in a Euro 2008 qualifying game with the sides tied.

The fan was fined €250,000 but Sweden were awarded the points and the Danes had to move several home games, something the Swedes are particularly anxious to avoid given that they have just opened their national stadium.


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