Trapattoni looks to new generation for salvation
GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI said yesterday Ireland’s new generation of players can enable the team to compete more effectively at the next World Cup – if they can qualify.
He provided perhaps his starkest assessment yet of the current crew, however, when he suggested: “If I tell the truth, it would seem like I wanted to humiliate people”.
It was an entertaining end-of-tournament performance by the Italian who, like his players, seemed to have saved a little of his best till last.
He and his team, he said, were leaving these European Championships “with our heads held high,” and intent on returning stronger in the autumn for World Cup qualifiers, which will provide the opportunity for “revenge” and to “show that we were not the worst team at these European Championships.”
He brushed aside the suggestion he might be considering his position in the wake of the three straight defeats suffered by his side and also vehemently defended his tactical choices, insisting the capabilities and experience of the players available to him had dictated the choices made.
“I accept your criticisms,” he said without sounding 100 per cent sincere. “We lost. When the team is winning the people are grateful to the manager but not when it loses.
“But, as I have said, I am proud to have qualified with this group and I am proud that after 24 years we have been here.”
The “24 years” line got a couple more outings with the generally upbeat manager becoming a little exasperated he has to keep reminding people how long it had been since Ireland made it to a European finals.
Asked whether, in the wake of the team’s showing there, however, supporters should reconcile themselves to the fact that qualification might routinely be followed in future by a pinch of humiliation, the Italian insisted things could improve over the next two years.
During that time the Irish players will have to battle the likes of Germany, Sweden and Austria for a place in Brazil but the 73-year-old reckons there can be significant improvement between now and then.
“Obviously it’s a tough group, the others are high in the ranking but I think that with the young players we can be better.”
He went on to suggest: “If the players are young then we won’t need to make changes for new energy and so we can change the team technically.”
He was pretty scathing when pressed on specific formations, though, and dismissed the idea he should have changed things after having qualified on the back of one style of play.
“We built a team around this system. Now, we have ideas about the system and maybe in August [when Ireland play a friendly against Serbia in Belgrade]. But we can talk a million times about the system and it is only words.
“What are important are facts and it has to be tested because if it doesn’t fit the qualities of your players then it doesn’t work.”
His suggestion was a switch to a five-man midfield would have to be tried out, possibly in the team’s next game and he identified James McCarthy as a player whose greater integration into the side could facilitate a shift in approach.
Others who might take encouragement from his comments yesterday included Séamus Coleman, James McClean and particularly Darron Gibson who, perhaps because he got so little of a look in here, was singled out for special attention.
The older players, he acknowledged, would have to make way but gradually, he again insisted.
Playing them here was, he said, “not just about loyalty, it was the right thing to do.”
Now, he continued, it is important they help a new generation to grow. “One or two players are particularly important for us,” he observed after revealing he has already spoken to Richard Dunne about sticking around.
“We can talk about Shane Duffy,” he said, “but is he ready for this?”
There are plenty of others who didn’t get a mention and they might wonder whether there will ever be a place for them in an international set-up so settled under the Italian that seven of the side which started in Poznan on Monday night also featured in the line-up for his first competitive game in charge, against Georgia in Mainz, almost four years ago.
It would have been eight, incidentally, but for the fact Damien Duff was injured at the time.
“I don’t about what happened yesterday,” he enthused. “I think about revenge and when we will have the chance to show that we were not the worst team at these European Championships.”
Whether he was also hinting at an early friendly encounter with the Netherlands was still unclear.
Sound bites: Trapattoni on . . .
“If I tell the truth [about the players], it seems like I want to humiliate people. I don’t want to do that because I am proud to be here at these Euros with this team. I don’t have to remind you that you haven’t been here in 24 years.”
“I accept your criticisms. We lost. When the team is winning the people are grateful to the manager but not when it loses.”
“I think about revenge and when we will have the chance to show that we were not the worst team at these championships.”
A NEW SYSTEM
“We can talk a million times about the system and it is only words. What are important are facts and it has to be tested because if it doesn’t fit the qualities of your players then it doesn’t work.”
“It [sticking with older players] wasn’t just about loyalty, it was the right thing to do [but] I think that with the young players, we can do better”.