Friday night lights ‘an opportunity’ for young Irish stars, says Giovanni Trapattoni

12 Oct

Published by, 12 October 2012

AFTER ALL HE has been through this week, it came as no surprise when Giovanni Trapattoni touched on the twin topics of miracles and faith at his pre-match press conference in Malahide yesterday.

Losing Glenn Whelan, Sean St Ledger and James McClean to injury on Monday was enough to cast a pall over the build-up to tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Germany.

By the time the full ramifications of Robbie Keane’s Achilles’ “knock” became clear, it must have felt like the penultimate blow in a week of a thousand cuts for the Italian.

Injury and retirements have left Trapattoni with just four of the players who started Ireland’s first Euro 2012 game against Croatia. The calls for experimentation have always been loud but when the moment finally arrived for Trap to deliver the news, there was no doubt that his hand had been forced.

The only minor shock was his decision to hand Seamus Coleman, who celebrated his 24thbirthday yesterday, his first competitive start at right-full ahead of the more experienced Stephen Kelly.

If Ireland lose tonight — as many expect they might — perhaps Trapattoni feels that it is as well to be hung for a sheep as a lamb. What’s another change in a week when so much has been dictated by circumstances?

“I said also the young players, this is a great opportunity for them to show us what they can do because they have quality, they have possibility to grow,” he said when asked of decision to start Coleman.

“That is an opportunity for them. Not for the future — the next future [is] immediately, that is the new campaign. We change the page and look about with new energy.”

Trapattoni knows the cards are stacked against him; against the side ranked second in the world, they would have been even if he could call upon a full complement of players. His listing off of some of the most recognisable names in the German squad did nothing to change that impression, although it was a nice reminder that things could be even worse if Mario Gomez was fit and in the travelling party.

“I studied what we can do to contain them because the quality — Müller, Özil, Klose, Gomez also strong, Götze, Podolski — unfortunately we have not this player but we have our quality. I think with our quality we can have this game.

“I’m not a saint. I don’t make miracles. I am proud of this team, we achieve very important results with our quality, with our attitude. That is what we can go proud about in this situation.”

Divine intervention

Asked by a member of the German press if he superstitiously throws holy water on his bench before a big match, he replied: “No, not on the bench, on myself. I’m a believer.”

There was plenty of talk of the near misses of the past and what Trapattoni hopes to achieve in this “new future” of his, but the immediate focus never strayed far from tomorrow night’s gargantuan task.

Losing captain Robbie Keane was a huge blow, the manager said, as much for his experience as his goalscoring ability.

“Unfortunately it changes also a little bit of personality and experience. Always I repeat the same, in these games, the experience is also important. The opponent have respect and a little bit of worry about these famous players.”

With Keane out and also a doubt for Tuesday’s trip to the Faroe Islands, many expected Shane Long to get the nod. Instead, Trapattoni opted for the more physical presence of Jonathan Walters but stressed that, as in Kazakhstan where Kevin Doyle changed the game from the bench, flexibility and surprise can work in Ireland’s favour tomorrow.

He opened the press conference by announcing his new-look team and the line, “4-3-3 or 4-4-2. We decide on the pitch what happens.

“Two, three changes in the game will be very, very important,” he added later.

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