Doyle leads late escape to victory


WORLD CUP 2014 QUALIFYING Kazakhstan 1 Republic of Ireland 2:IN THE end it was a question from a Kazakh journalist, dismayed by his side’s inability to hold a winning position and clearly in the market for somebody to blame, that allowed Giovanni Trapattoni to present his defence for last night’s performance in Astana.

“What is it about our players that they cannot defend their lead?” the local reporter asked as the Italian’s press post match conference neared its end, “or is the the fault of the manager and his tactics?” What he got in reply had very little to do with Miroslav Beranek.

“Remember the coach is only strong when also the players are strong, Ireland is missing a little bit of experience in its international players. They do not play the Uefa Champions League for their clubs and so they do not have the big personality that comes with playing in these games. That is missing at this level.”

The 73-year-old went on to claim that he had got through the best part of his career with seeing a side of his concede the sort of soft set piece goal that almost landed Ireland in so much trouble last night. More alarming, given the quality of some of Ireland’s other group opponents, they have become something of a trademark for the team of late.

“Our communication was poor tonight,” he said. “We know this number six goes to the front at corners and set-pieces. We know this. But the players didn’t talk to each other. Communication.

“We conceded two goals against Italy and against Croatia, because there was no communication, Players telling others to come here, to go in front. But for your information, this morning we took (Keiren) Westwood, (Simon) Cox and (Glenn) Whelan and talked to them about this position on corners.

“Never in my life before have my teams conceded goals at near post like Italy and Croatia. Sometimes your opponents score a goal and you say ‘Bravo!’ ‘Congratulations!’ but not with a goal like this. I am disappointed that we are missing that bit of communication. “

Trapattoni ultimately conceded that he and his player had been lucky at the end and, while repeatedly insisting that he was not proffering excuses he sprinkled a few possible ones about, primarily the difficulty that his players had experienced in adapting to the artificial pitch. More substantially he argued, predictably enough, that the manner of the win will not matter much when the final table is viewed a little more than a year from now and the places in the draw for the World Cup finals are being decided.

“The victory is important. The players can return to believing in their mentality and strength, that they can do again what we did against teams like France and Italy. And the players on the bench showed tonight how important they can be. I said to you before that I have many possibilities on the bench and I told them in the dressing room to be ready: “You can come into the game. It was not easy for (Shane) Long or (Kevin) Doyle in this situation but it was good reaction; Doyle is a good man, with an important personality.”

Overall, he said, the mood had been flat at the interval and that he had to cajole his players to go out and redouble their efforts against a side that not only scored the only goal of the first half but had played much of its best football.

“There was no atmosphere. It was strange. And I said: ‘come on, come on, come on because you still have 45 minutes, you can achieve the result.’”

He will, he said, speak to the players about the situation between now and Tuesday when it is likely to be a significantly changed side that takes on Oman in Craven Cottage. Ultimately, he suggested, that the group remains demoralised in the wake of their three defeats at the European Championships.

“Maybe we will have time tomorrow or before the Oman friendly game when I can ask the team why there is this. The team was a bit deflated. I could understand it better if they had been like this against Serbia, that was the first game after Euros but not today; today I expected a reaction.

“I told them before the game to put their disappointment behind them. For their clubs they play in a league and if they lose they can’t afford to be disappointed, they have to play again, to fight for another 90 minutes. Now, when they are with Ireland, they must forget the Euros.”

If that really is the problem then it’s good advice because with Germany to come next and another potentially tricky away game against minnows immediately after that, the lingering memory of their failure to make any sort of impact in Poland might soon be the least of this team’s problems.

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