It could be as late as Friday before we finally get to crack the open or shut case of the Friends Arena roof in Stockholm.
If agreement can’t be reached between Ireland and Sweden regarding the retractable roof in the new 50,000-seater arena for the World Cup qualifier, it will fall to the Fifa match delegate, in consultation with the referee, to make the decision.
Currently, the Swedish FA favour keeping the roof closed but, yesterday in Malahide, Giovanni Trapattoni indicated he’d rather it was kept open. The decision will have a significant bearing on the temperature inside the stadium. Still in the grip of winter, Stockholm is predicted to hit a low of between -5 and -9 around kick-off on Friday, with some forecasts even suggesting that it could actually feel like an intensely bitter -15. By contrast, with the roof closed, the temperature would rise to a comfortable +15.
Trapattoni’s concern is that the closed roof can serve to amplify the noise of the home support.
“I played always in these stadiums in the winter,” he said. “When it is closed it has an echo and that is no good. It is too loud. I was in Germany with this, and it was bad for us because of the crowd.”
The hardy 74-year-old also laughed off worries about the cold.
“But it is not cold on the pitch, that is what is important,” he said. “It’s for the spectators that it will be cold.”
Indeed, the state of the pitch could yet eclipse the weather as a cause for concern since, only yesterday, a new grass surface — imported from Holland — was being laid in the Friends Arena, after the stadium has been given over to an ice hockey variant called Bandy. Meanwhile, the FAI have announced that Ireland will play a friendly against Wales in the Cardiff City Stadium on August 14.
Ireland’s remaining fixtures 2013: World Cup Qualifier, Friday: Sweden v Rep of Ireland ; World Cup Qualifier, March 26: Rep of Ireland v Austria, Dublin; Friendly, May 29: England v Rep of Ireland, London; Friendly, June 2: Rep of Ireland v Georgia, Dublin; World Cup Qualifier, June 7: Rep of Ireland v Faroe Islands, Dublin; Friendly, August 14: Wales v Rep of Ireland, Cardiff; World Cup Qualifier, September 6: Rep of Ireland v Sweden, Dublin; World Cup Qualifier, September 10: Austria v Rep of Ireland; World Cup Qualifier, October 11: Germany v Rep of Ireland, Cologne; World Cup Qualifier, October 15: Rep of Ireland v Kazakhstan, Dublin.
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