Despite Tuesday’s agonising home draw with Austria putting Giovanni Trapattoni firmly back in the firing line, the FAI have no immediate plans to move against the manager.
That means the Italian should be secure in his job until at least September — barring, of course, a catastrophic result at home to the Faroe Islands in June.
The association’s board of management did convene yesterday but, unlike the emergency session which followed the Faroes game last October – when the FAI opted to back the manager amid raging speculation that he was about to be axed — this was a scheduled meeting and Trapattoni’s position was not an issue.
The manager has also revealed that FAI chief executive John Delaney offered his commiserations in person after Austria’s last gasp equaliser at the Aviva and pointed out that the qualifying campaign is still only at the half-way stage.
“He was in the players’ lounge and give me and Marco regards,” said the Italian. “For the result, obviously, (he) was no happy-happy, but for the commitment and for our performance, he said it was okay, we have played only 45 minutes now.
“He said we have again the other opportunity. I believe this, it’s no problem. He said also, ‘You were very unlucky’. And not only him, also three or four people, not FAI, said, ‘unfortunately you were a little bit unlucky this evening’. Because Austria were shooting but shooting away. We had no other particularly dangerous situation. We could have finished the game with a one-goal advantage.”
Among those braving the cold on Tuesday night to watch the 2-2 draw at the Aviva was former Reading boss Brian McDermott who is widely believed to be the FAI’s preferred choice as a successor to the current manager. When Trapattoni was asked yesterday if he was satisfied he retained the association’s backing, he replied: “That is not my duty. My duty is to make what is possible to do with this team. To discover other players to renew us. To grow the team’s experience, confidence and conviction. The team had a very great reaction (against Austria) because, after 15 minutes when you give this goal advantage to a good team, it was like a knock to the head. But we had a good reaction – (Shane) Long also hit the post — and we could have achieved the result. We played well.”
Trapattoni said he fully understood that Austria’s stoppage time equaliser would negatively colour media comment on the game and, in particular, his contentious substitutions.
He said: “Two minutes less and the analysis would be completely different.
“I know your job: why this change or the other? Now it’s easy to say but the decision had to be made after 80 minutes.”
Trapattoni said he had considered bringing on the “creative, offensive” Wes Hoolahan but decided that, with Irish energy levels flagging, Paul Green would do more to stiffen the midfield.
Trapattoni also claimed it was pointless for him to try and run the clock down by bringing on a third sub since the referee would simply have extended the stoppage time.
In any event, according to the manager, it was not the substitutions which made the difference but the fact that Ireland didn’t opt to kill time in the game’s dying moments having won a free-kick deep in Austrian territory.
Instead, the quickly taken free ended up with the opposition regaining possession and then breaking upfield to score via David Abala’s deflected shot.
“This team in the future can learn from this,” he said. “With more calm, we could have wasted a little bit of time with the free-kick and finished the game off. Instead, we played immediately and lost the ball in midfield. Let me say one name: Damien Duff. In this position, he would go down, lose time and finish the game. That is experience.”
Similarly, after Ciarán Clark’s error for the first Polish goal, Trapattoni suggested — in his own inimitable way of course — that there is a time for a centre-half to play football and a time for him to find Row Z.
“I saw this at Aston Villa, he has this habit,” said the manager. “He must learn. Italy had the great teams in the past but their defenders never make dribbling, never in life. When you can play, play, but, under pressure, close the eyes and shoot over there.”
Despite Tuesday’s cruel blow — one which yielded a potentially significant advantage to both Austria and Sweden — Trapattoni maintains that Ireland remain firmly in contention for a second-place finish in Group C.
“It’s like arm-wrestling,” he declared. “Germany are out in front but Sweden, Austria and Ireland remain in this balance. And Sweden play Austria next. Can we still qualify? We have only played 45 minutes. Now starts the second round so why not.”
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