After two encouraging yet frustrating world cup 2014 qualifiers, Giovanni Trapattoni finds himself in a familiar position with the Irish media. He’s being heavily criticized for his tactics, and especially the substitutions he made in the Austria game.
First of all, let’s put things in perspective. Ireland are fourth in their world cup qualifying group, yet are level on points with the teams in second and third place (Austria and Sweden respectively). Germany are, predictably, runaway leaders of the group. That will surprise no-one. The race for second was always going to be the race for Ireland. We went to second favourites in the group, Sweden, and played some really great stuff, our best performance since Paris in 2009. Nobody cared about the past, about selection, substitutions or negative football. We got the result we came for, a draw. Now it must be said that if not for injuries and other factors, we actually would have been worse. The important thing however, obviously, is that we got the result we came for. We got a draw. Then we had a home match against Austria, also fancying their chances at getting second place. In the first half, Ireland were even better than they were against Sweden, Shane Long and James McLean especially. We were looking like a real new team, with a great chance of going places in this group. Everything looked rosy, until the second half. Ireland tired, dropped back deeper and deeper and Austria smelled blood. They got a last minute, long range, deflected, equaliser.
OK, now that is the simplified version, but it has the important facts. Ireland should have beaten Austria, but there is no need to jump the gun and start saying Trapattoni isn’y doing the team justice. However, hindsight is the easy way out in this case. I am Irish, I want the best for the team and before the match and even more so after Austria took the lead in the 12th minute, I would have taken a draw. Considering how badly we played in the second half, we should accept the draw as a point gained, it isn’t catastrophic.
There are things that could have gone our way, like Shane Long’s backheel hitting the post. Trapattoni could have brought on Wes Hoolahan, who, despite all the media attention, remember, is still not the best player ever to come out of the country. His reputation in the country has grown incredibly since he wasn’t used as much as he should have. Paul Green was a good substitution. David Alaba was running riot, getting on a lot of ball and needed to be marked. I was disappointed that Green wasn’t given this task. He did it well when marking Ibrahimovic, so why not try putting him on Alaba? The equalising goal was scored by the man that needed to be picked up when he got into those positions: Alaba. I nearly find myself writing “winning goal” instead of “equalising goal” there. Such is the negative attitude about the result, you forget that we didn’t actually lose!
There are positives to take out of the match, and as always there are negatives to take out of the match too. Trap’s only human, he made mistakes, minor mistakes. We still drew and are still level on points with Sweden and Austria. Don’t listen to the negativity, we’re still in a good position and if lessons are learned we should be a better team when facing the reverse fixtures against the top teams later in the year.