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Italy test will set Republic up for challenges to come

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Steve Wilson | 22:00 UK time, Saturday, 16 June 2012

At Euro 2012 in Poland:

It was a fairly bedraggled look for first thing on a Friday.

As Gdansk's rush hour started to build, so dribs and drabs of Republic of Ireland fans bedecked in every kind of green-and-white fancy dress imaginable started to plan their route to Poznan.

The costumes had taken a battering in the long hours spent in the bars of the old town, and their owners' voices were harsh and hoarse after not just an hour and a half, but days of out-singing their Spanish counterparts.

The Polish TV crews loved it, relishing the opportunity to marvel at the Irish appetite for enjoyment despite a proper pounding at the hands of the Spanish.

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The 4-0 defeat by world and European champions Spain means the Irish cannot make it through to the last eight.

Nonetheless, the pubs in Poznan will have restocked their cellars in preparation for another onslaught before and after the match against Italy - but once that game is played where are Ireland heading?

Despite qualifying for these Euros, Ireland's first tournament finals for a decade, and having only been robbed of qualification for the last World Cup by Thierry Henry's handball in Paris, the calls for manager Giovanni Trapattoni to step down were inevitable.

The Irish have been really disappointing in Poland.

Nobody expected them to contribute much attacking flair to group C, but few expected them to concede so freely against Croatia or to capitulate so completely against Spain.

While the Italians are deeply, and rightly, fearful of an Irish rally and the ability of one of their own to unpick their own hopes of qualifying for the last eight, Trapattoni and his side have some significant long-term decisions to make.

Some have questioned whether the 73-year-old Italian has the desire to go on for the remaining two years of his contract. But it would certainly seem he has, judging by the way he has bitten back at the critics in general and former Republic midfielder Roy Keane in particular.

It'll take some energy, however, to find a new generation of players, assuming that many of the elder statesmen of this Irish squad decide to leave international football behind them.

Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and even John O'Shea could all be forgiven for deciding that weariness demands they rest more and play less. None of them owes their countrymen anything after such magnificent careers and not far short of 500 caps between them.

Ireland's 2014 World Cup qualifying group is tough; along with Sweden and Austria they will be surely be chasing second place behind Germany, with Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islanders hoping to provide the occasional upset.

That campaign comes round quickly with a trip to Kazakhstan in early September followed Germany's visit to Dublin in October.

A good start is crucial and a decent result and much-improved performance against Italy could make all the difference in ensuring the Irish are in the right frame of mind for those challenges no matter who is in the team.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sadly they are going home but i doubt they can have any excuses other than the fact, they fell short of the mark required to progress.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Irish did their best and were unlucky to be in a particularly tough group. They did really well to qualify after 10 years absence from international competitions but the majority of their players are from mid/lower end Premiership or Championship teams and they just don't have the quality of players to cope with the likes of Spain. When you bring on a sub who 'has just been released by Derby County and is currently without a club' in a top international you are really up against it.
    Trapattoni did a great job to get Ireland to the tournament but no one can be surprised that they have gone out at the group stage.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is the problem us Irish people have with trappatoni, there is no need to bring on a player who "has just been released by Derby County and is currently without a club" when we have people like James McLean ,Darron Gibson and shane long on the bench. Some english people may mock the quality of these players but they are better than the ones that trapattoni plays. Sean St. Ledger is an awful CB and we must have 4-5 who should start before him.

    Trapattoni needs to ditch the current team and start fresh, there should be an emphasis on youth, Ciaran Clark, seamus coleman, Shane long, James McLean, James McCarthy, Darron Gibson should all be starting players. Greg Cunningham should be played at LB to try and develop his carreer also.

    Though I am not a football manager, so what I say counts for nothing anyways!

  • Comment number 4.

    I think we are being a bit unfair on Ireland and Trapattoni. Ireland did well to qualify given their ranking and on paper the other three sides are a lot better. We have seen them over perform in previous tournaments but that won't happen every time. I think the players, manager and fans should be proud that they got them there.

    Having said that I don't believe they played their strongest team. In my vie Gibson, McLean and Long should have been involved and as an Evertonian, I would have had Coleman in the squad and possibly Duffy as well.

    Finally, this is what I don't like about countries having foreign coaches. For no gain whatsoever, given that they are already eliminated, they have to plot to send Italy out, the managers own country and if I were a Croat, I wouldn't be happy about that. He is open to criticism whether he changes things or not.

  • Comment number 5.

    The real group of death shows no mercy. Ireland did well to get a place in it.

  • Comment number 6.

    As a long time Republic of Ireland supporter, I can truly say that this is the worst crop of players in my living memory. Trapattoni did well to get us there at all but we rode our luck in the qualifiers in both Russia & Slovakia.

    The young players are simply not good enough and the older (once good) ones are no longer able to produce the goods with the possible exception of Given who was not 100% fit for this tournament.

    I think Trapattoni needs to be moved on and we need to go in a new direction with the next round of qualifying and possibly even the one after seen as a learning curve.

    At least Angela Merkel will be happy, we will have to go back to work now.

  • Comment number 7.

    Gutted for the Irish but this side isn't quite as good as the '02 bunch so was always going to have it's work cut out. Hope that put up a fight vs ITaly though.

  • Comment number 8.

    Trap owes us nothing for getting Ireland to the euros but going forward he will have to change his approach. Although the buzz is great being in the tournement , the same could not be said for the majority of the qualification campaign, dwindling crowds and dire football , is it a price worth paying for tournement football ?

    Also very noticeable how tired the players were in both games. In general the other teams seem to be primed for the tournement and super fit.

    Good Luck to the lads against Italy !

  • Comment number 9.

    Trappatoni will only change the team if players retire. End of story. There isn't a hope this guy will change things otherwise. He has even accused the players of playing with fear - in fact used it as the main excuse for the dimal embarrassment this tournament has been for the Irish. He clearly think his tactics and selections have nothing to do with it. It makes me so angry to think of the calibre of player he left behind while bringing some who don't even reach the level of journeymen. We were never going to win this or possibly even get out of the group but my god it didn't have to be this bad. Terrible stuff from Traps and really he should be off after that shambles. And if one more person says he did well to get us there - look at the group we qualified second out of - then look at the playoff we got. It wasn't that much of an achievement.

  • Comment number 10.

    Frank black @6

    Good to see this blog about the Irish, not falling into the same old nasty vitriol, we have with the England postings.

    Your thoughts regarding Trappatoni are quite understandable but who could do the job any better? As you say it is the worst crop of players for many a year.

    Normally someone like yourself would be offering an alternative or indeed a tactical change but it's hard to see, just what can be done right now. Personally i thought Trappa performed a feat getting them there, in the first place.

    It's not much use coming from an Englishman. If there is a positive to come out of this and I always try to look for the positives, there is only one way the Irish can go from here and that is upwards. I do believe, sometimes you have to reach the basement before anything can be done. It also gives a chance for honest evaluations and aims.

    They will be back Frank, take it from me it happens to most footballing nations.

  • Comment number 11.


    I think any coach who actually picks the best players we have available not the best to fit into some turgid antiquated system would be a better option than Trappatoni. He left behind so many proven Premiership players who while relatively young had great seasons for successful clubs last year. The one he did break form and bring has barely got a look in despite being brilliant for Sunderland last season in the Premiership. As if we can ignore anyone who can bring a bit of skill and drive to the side.

    As for the great achievement - Russia were shown up for what they really are last night - a patchy side who blow hot and cold and don't have very much belief. We got pasted by them over two legs in qualification. The rest of the sides were poor and we absolutely lucked out with our playoff draw. I know we are not blessed with an amazing bunch of players but I don't think what he has done has been that remarkable or impressive. And we can definitely do better than the shambles of the last week.

  • Comment number 12.

    @10 Londoner

    Those England boards are a joke now. You cannot even reply to the two trolls-in-chief without having your post modded.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments. I did say that Trapattoni did well to get us there in the first place but I think we need to change the mindset and the way we approach things but I don't see Trapattoni being able to do that. He is perhaps too set in his ways.

    Sure they will get back up again but it is going to take some time I feel.

  • Comment number 13.

    12 Frank Black

    You got that right. I had a comment made to troll number 2 moderated for using the words bunk bed. I am wondering if someone in the moderators office wants to protect them to keep them coming back for more wind ups.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ 13 Drastic

    I had 4 removed last night, for the life of me, can't see why. I think if you get the measure of them, they start referring your post claiming they are ad hominem or something.

    Ho-hum, best ignored me thinks.

  • Comment number 15.

    14 Frank Black

    That's pretty much happened with HAHA (or Eddie as I now call him). Once I called him on his silly posts suddenly every other thing i said got moderated. He claimed not to be complaining but he was getting pretty mad with me and there was nothing offensive in my posts.

    Still Soul "Tyler Durden" Patch fled this morning when I came on so maybe they are getting the message and we might be able to get back to the football.

    Speaking of which, I really think Ireland are going to get a draw against Italy and that's not just cos I have them for a 1-1 draw in a bet. I think they are going to show us some true Irish heart

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 15 Drastic

    A point is no good to Italy, so I have a feeling they will get the job done. They usually do.

  • Comment number 17.

    16 Frank

    It will be a tough game but at least Ireland have some inside knowledge with Trappattoni. Plus the pressue is off with nothing but pride to play for.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've never been persuaded by Trapattoni. He was brought in to manage players who, inevitably, would be steeped in English premiership habits, a league he does not rate. His selections are eccentric. His tactics wholly unexciting. OK, Ireland won't be like Real Madrid, but under Charlton there was a real fizz about a team that could outperform its own accumulated abilities. I don't mind us losing. But I mind us being boring.

  • Comment number 19.

    A 'must-win' Italy up against a 'playing for pride' Ireland... it should be a cracker!! Would rather watch this than Spain tapping it about, although they too can't afford to 'do a Russia'. Wins for Italy and Croatia is not out of the question. Worth a fiver I reckon...

  • Comment number 20.

    19 The Big D

    That would really wind up the trolls!

    Not to be too nerdy and I am sure few people will consider it but getting a result against Italy would be a real boost for their co-efficient. It's been 10 years that they have had a chance to get a summer hike. Even a draw is worth 564 points (I think!) and should they pull off a win, 3 times that. It would be helping for furture qualifying to make sure Ireland don't slip down the rankings. Scotland and Wales suffer from always getting strong groups.

  • Comment number 21.

    Brady,Stapleton,O'Leary,Moran,Irwin,Bonner,Whealan,Houghton,Aldridge,Quinn,Sheedy i could go on but there was a time when our national side would be completely full of players playing in the English domestic top flight.
    These days a handful in the squad would be fringe players playing for teams in the bottom half of the PL.
    Allied to the fact that the Irish FA have failed to invest in an academy of excellence here in Ireland the future dosen't look too bright.
    Also 65% of youths would rather play GAA games along with rugby etc.
    That leaves a very small gene pool to pick from.
    Irish youngsters who do show promise and get to England for trials for clubs are found wanting immediately..technically inferior and lacking basic skills european youngsters excel at.

    I suggest that someone like Roy "ranting is my schtick" Keane does something pro-active and helps set up an academy of excellence here in Ireland to nurture raw talent before they are sent off to clubs in the UK.

  • Comment number 22.

    @6: Ireland are "the worst crop of players in your living memory"? If you're old enough to remember the 2010 World Cup, this is untrue. The fact that they got to the tournament shows that they are the best Irish team in a decade. They may have had a poor tournament but they are moving in the right direction.

  • Comment number 23.

    @10 "Glad to see this blog not falling into the same old nasty vitriol" and "As you say it's the worst crop of players for many a year". The second statement, given Ireland's failure to qualify for a major tournament until now since 2002, counts as vitriol. If you can't see the vitriolic person in the blog, it's you.

  • Comment number 24.

    "and having only been robbed of qualification for the last World Cup by Thierry Henry's handball in Paris"



    Ireland were 'robbed of' a draw in that game. They may or may not have won on penalties.

  • Comment number 25.

    @21 - Craigas: - "Allied to the fact that the Irish FA have failed to invest in an academy of excellence here in Ireland the future dosen't look too bright." - I'm not surprised that the Irish FA haven't invested in an academy of excellence in the Rep. of Ireland... seeing as they are the FA of Northern Ireland. Perhaps your ire should be directed towards the FAI (Football Association of Ireland). That said, perhaps the FAI are simply saving on costs by continuing to pick players developed by the IFA

  • Comment number 26.

    @ 22 & 23

    You obviously know nothing about Republic of Ireland football. If you watch them or go to watch them as I do on a regular basis, then you will know that they just about scraped through a very weak group, the clear winners of which have just been dumped out of this tournament.

    The 2010 qualifiers were pretty much the same when we lost to France in the playoff who were then absolutely abysmal in South Africa.

    As a matter of fact, you are the one who has brought the first bit of vitriol to this board.

  • Comment number 27.

    Thought the Irish came through a weak group in qualifying but that said their group is tough and they've lost to two very good teams so far. Like to see them get something out of the Italy game, they are capable of getting it and Italy are rightly nervous about this one.

    Hope its Croatia and Spain from this group.

  • Comment number 28.

    It's about time players like Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Aidy White, Darron Gibson, James McClean, Marc Wilson and Shane Long were given a serious chance to cement their places in a young and fresh Ireland team.

  • Comment number 29.

    Ireland have suffered for Trappatoni's failure to make this adventure the stepping stone it ought to have been rather than an end in itself. Shane Long hasn't started a game,nor McClean,these are the best two Irish players in the Premier League. Wolves and Aston Villa had terrible seasons but Ireland selected half of their team using players from those clubs and their lack of confidence stood out but more it appeared to spread to the rest of the team which was woefully led by a man approaching forty years of age who plays 'celebrity' football in the USA. Roy Keane may be blunt but that does not make him wrong. If Ireland are not to ever be content going along for the craic at major tournaments they must evolve. I note the only change to todays line-up versues Italy is the relegated Kevin Doyle in for the West Bromwich reserves striker Simon Cox. When Ireland are out and have little choice but to look to the future that selection beggars belief. So much so that Trappatoni's continued involvement must I believe be open to question. If Long/McClean and one or two others cannot get a game today one is bound to wonder when they might reasonably expect to play? And might they not simply look back on this summer and wonder if they would have been better off resting on a beach than carrying kit bags around eastern Europe and watching yesterdays men get well and truly pulverised? Nobody will convince me Croatian,Spanish or Italian defenders would rather face Long and McClean than Robbie Keane and Simon Cox/Kevin Doyle or that Ward,Dunne or Givens form last season warranted automatic inclusion in the team. The whole sorry mess will doubtless be debated in the weeks to come but the starting point must be 'was that acceptable' and the answer has to be 'no'.

  • Comment number 30.

    the way the fans stayed behind singing for half an hour after losing 4-0 says it all - no ambition. embarrassing

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 30

    You're right, perhaps they should have gone and smashed up Gdansk instead.

  • Comment number 32.

    It was always going to be difficult for Ireland to get points in this group. They haven't performed to their potential but even if they had i'm not sure that the results so far would have been different. I hope they put in a good performance tonight against Italy regardless of the result.

    One consolation is that they haven't been the worst team in the tournament - that particular accolade has to go to the Netherlands.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think the general feeling is that it's been a miracle that Ireland have managed to get to a major tournament with this crop of players. Like many teams, including England, if your best players are the ones which are past it, then clearly you're without a wing and prayer. Any defence with Richard Dunne or John Terry will struggle to play a high line and when they're fixed in the team then the team's play is limited by this. With a very uncreative midfield and attack which can neither hold possession nor out think the opposition, unfortunately it means there's only one result: giving the ball to the opposition and being picked off like low hanging fruit.

    The reality is modern football has moved on so that teams poor in possession and with slow, unskillful strikers can't get anywhere. The physical presence no longer pays off as the referee gives anything physical as a foul. Germany has seen this and adapted their play accordingly and this is why Spain has emerged as dominant in the past few years. Unfortunately for the British Isles and Ireland, and Scandinavia, we have little or no hope of being decent teams. We might as well drop our interest in football and move onto canoeing.

  • Comment number 34.

    Any team is going to struggle to get a result against Spain who are the tournament favourites. Anyway just to show that not everything is so one-sided Irish Fans may take some comfort in the knowledge that the senior Ireland hockey team beat Spain 3-2 at the weekend.


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