It’s back to basics for Trapattoni as Green is given pivotal midfield role

Leeds midfielder will start alongside Whelan against Sweden in World Cup qualifier

Sweden v Republic of Ireland

World Cup Qualifier

Paul Green and James McCarthy during Irleand training in Malahide earlier this week. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Date: 22 March, 2013

Time: 7:45 PM

Venue: Friends Arena, Stockholm

On TV: RTE Two

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 17:26


For all the talk of grooming talent and shifting styles, Giovanni Trapattoni has rather more pressing business here in Stockholm this evening. After an embarrassing European Championship and a humiliating home defeat by Germany, the 74 year-old must engineer a way for Ireland to emerge from the Friends Arena at full-time with something to show for their efforts. Pride will count for little on this occasion. A point is what is required.

He will point to the away days in Paris, Bari, Moscow and Belgrade as evidence of what he and his players can do on their day and hope he can instil the confidence required to upset Sweden by producing another big one.

In a slight departure from his usual practice of naming his starting line up, the Italian did so but said that he was still unsure about Hull City midfielder Robbie Brady, revealing that he would speak with him again after training and suggesting that he wished to be persuaded by the player himself that he was "psychologically" up to the challenge.

The ploy, it seems, might have intended to focus the 21 year-old on the scale of the responsibility with which he is being entrusted. Sure enough, the pair could be seen deep in conversation out on the pitch and while it unclear last night what the conclusion of the exchange was, the Dubliner is expected to start ahead of Andy Keogh who, Trapattoni confirmed, is currently next in line.

Those sharpening knives for the former Italy boss will watch with interest how it all plays out this evening but the greater controversy in terms of this team selection remains the inclusion of Paul Green at the expense of James McCarthy.

This was the manager's clear statement that he intends the side to get back to basics this evening with the Leeds midfielder expected to hustle and harry in midfield, winning the ball where possible but primarily depriving opponents of the opportunity to use it effectively.

Whether the 29 year-old is really up to the task remains to be seen but Trapattoni clearly sees him as the best bet for the role. McCarthy, it might well be argued, would have helped Ireland keep the ball when they had it but the manager clearly reckons that is a price worth paying on a night when it may prove hard to come by at all for stretches and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's extravagant talent requires come class of counter measure.

Trapattoni was defensive about Green, insisting that he is maligned because of the type of player he is - Gennaro Gattuso and Nobby Stiles sprang to the 74 year-old's mind - while his ability is consistently underestimated. The veteran coach was even prepared to talk down McCarthy in the circumstances, apparently taking exception to the suggestion that he is more creative. "No," he said," "you can not say that. What he does is good but he passes the ball in a linear way (sideways) and in two years time he can be better than Glenn Whelan but he is not creative."

Brady and James McClean will be depended upon to produce the goods on that score and it will be a critical test for the pair. Having angrily taken to twitter when he was passed over previously, the Derryman will get his chance tonight to do his talking on the pitch. His task will not only be to provide openings for Robbie Keane and Shane Long but to contain Mikael Lustig as Seb Larsson drifts inside to clear a path for the celtic full-back.

On the other wing Behrang Safari, assuming he starts, may not be so adventurous given how badly things went wrong for him when the team lost in Holland a couple of years ago and Brady, along with Seamus Coleman, should get chances to test the Swedes down that flank.

The speed with which they can do it will be crucial for there should be space through much of the evening for Shane Long to run into behind the home side's central defensive partnership of Jonas Olsson and Andreas Granqvist, neither of whom possesses much pace.

The Swedes fear being caught on the break or at set pieces, where Brady could again prove crucial, and they are certainly vulnerable on both scores. There should then be opportunities for the Irish although clearly they will have to tighten up pretty dramatically themselves if they are have any real prospect of making even an away goal count for much.

The absence of Johan Elmander should take a little of the edge of the Swedish attack but Larsson and Alexander Kacanikic will pose a persistent threat from behind likely lone striker Tobias Hysen. And that is before you even begin to consider what might happen if Ibrahimovic has a good night and the Irish defence a bad one.

It won't be lost on Trapattoni that the match will be overseen by the Spanish referee that gave Juve defender Stephan Lichtsteiner such remarkable latitude against Celtic a few weeks back. Green, John O'Shea and the occasionally rash Ciaran Clark might, the Italian will hope, all benefit from a little of that leniency this evening.

For his part, the PSG star rather sportingly observed, when asked whether the Irish plan might involve kicking him a bit; "I'm prepared for everything. The opponents have to do everything they can to beat to win; us too, we just try to do it in a different way, that's all."

The Irish, in fact, are unlikely to be devoting too much time to thoughts of victory but the avoidance of defeat? Well, that's another thing. It will not be easy but then neither would the road back be in the event that tonight's game is lost.

Sweden (Probable): Isaksson (Kasimpasa); Lustig (Celtic), Olsson (West Brom), Granqvist (Genoa), Safari (Anderlecht); Kallstrom (Spartak Moscow), Elm (CSKA Moscow); Larsson (Sunderland), Ibrahimovic (PSG), Kacaniklic (Burnley); Hysen (Gothenburg).

Republic of Ireland: Forde (Millwall); Coleman (Everton), O'Shea (Sunderland), (Clark), Wilson (Stoke City); Brady (Hull City), Whelan (Stoke City), Green (Leeds United), McClean (Sunderland); Long (West Brom), Keane (LA Galaxy).

Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)


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