Trapattoni goes with tried and trusted
SOCCER:APART FROM the devastating news concerning James McCarthy’s father, there were no real surprises at yesterday’s press conference where Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni named his 23-man squad and five standby players for the Euro 2012 Championships next month in Poland and the Ukraine.
The Italian had already flagged that James McClean would be included at the expense of a player who had asked not to be considered for personal reasons. After some ridiculous rumours had circulated over the weekend, there was a sense of shock and sadness yesterday when it was revealed McCarthy had made himself unavailable in order to support his dad, Willie, as he battles cancer.
Of those who were in contention but failed to make the cut, Paul Green will probably be the most disappointed, with the midfielder’s introduction from the bench and subsequent performance against the Czechs in February appearing to have kept alive his hopes of a place on the plane to Poland.
Given how little was up for grabs yesterday, though, the decision to include McClean and omit Green has tended to characterise Trapattoni’s selection as a positive one. There is a little less of the balance that the former Milan and Juventus boss tends to crave and fewer defensive options in central midfield, but the Sunderland winger brings additional attacking options, primarily on the left. However, the 73-year-old suggested that he would bring him in to the pre-tournament training camp early in order to work on a few aspects of his game and even teach him how to play on the right.
Elsewhere, the list of players is exclusively made up of the tried and, most importantly, trusted. Recent injuries may have ended Séamus Coleman’s lingering hopes of inclusion but in reality he had never kicked a ball in a competitive senior international and that fact made it hugely unlikely he would make the squad. The Everton midfielder is joined on the standby list by the uncapped goalkeeper Darren Randolph, Green and two players who have drifted to the periphery of Trapattoni’s plans – Paul McShane and Andy Keogh.
All, the manager insisted yesterday, have been warned to make sure they are in a position to answer a late call, as any of the squad might get injured in one of Ireland’s two final friendly games. It is possible, of course, that someone might not make it even that far with most still having a couple of competitive club games left before they can take even the initial trip to Dublin for granted.
The manager acknowledged that he made the calls on a player-by-player basis as to when members of the squad will report in, with those who have played the most football this year generally given three additional days of rest beyond May 17th, which is when those with Championship clubs and selected others will gather.
Keiren Westwood, David Forde, Seán St Ledger, Darren O’Dea, Kevin Foley, Darron Gibson, Keith Fahey, Stephen Hunt, McClean and Simon Cox are all expected in from the outset, he said, while Richard Dunne, he suggested, will stay on at Aston Villa for a few days to continue working with the club’s physios.
The backbone of his first-choice team – the likes of Shay Given, John O’Shea, Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane, all virtually certain to start against Croatia if fit – will arrive over the weekend and join in on the training pitch at the start of the following week.
Few possess the sort of reputations going to these championships that would strike fear into Slaven Bilic, Cesare Prandelli or Vicente del Bosque but Trapattoni said that he assumed that none would be foolish enough to take Ireland lightly, if only, he seemed to suggest, because he is involved.
“I think my colleagues respect us,” he said. “In Italy and also in Croatia I have friends and the managers there say that Ireland is a strong team with a strong mentality.
“Spain’s manager was an important player. I played against Vicente, I know him and he knows me. Also the Croatia manager, he played in Germany and he knows me because we played against his club. Prandelli was my player. So I don’t think any of my colleagues would be arrogant enough to think they are superior.
“My philosophy is to be careful. I saw a team this week that is threatened with relegation make two mistakes and concede two goals. That is why I always say that games can be decided by the little details. Italy at the last World Cup lost because of a throw-in. This week this team lost because of a lack of attention.
“I don’t know at these European Championships if there will be a situation like this but what is important is that we believe in our quality and our system. We have work to do. We have to improve but we have to believe in what we can achieve together.”
What precisely that is remains to be seen but he acknowledged the prospects of progressing to the quarter-finals are, even assuming the team makes a good start, likely to boil down to the meeting with Italy in the final group match and suggested that an early victory might allow him to rest players up for the showdown.
“If we beat Croatia then probably, yes,” he said, “because our second game is against Spain. Then maybe the third game will decide but (if Ireland beat Croatia) we can think about not only Spain but Italy. I think yes, the third game can decide it.”