Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trap shows what the fuss is about

Ah that's better. As if to illustrate the pointlessness and futility of predicting the pattern of a football game, Ireland contrived to turn the world on its head in Bari last night, coming away with a fully deserved 1-1 draw that just might have turned into a famous win with a slice of luck late on. After an early sending off and goal for Italy, it was the Irish who showed all the ambition and football through the 90 minutes and were full value for their draw in the end.

On his homecoming, it was justification for a manager whose methods have been doubted plenty in these parts. Trapattoni showed all the tactical awareness you'd expect from a man of his experience; he hasn't had a better night on the sideline for Ireland. Starting Andy Keogh was a gamble that backfired but he was brave enough to whip him off after 20 minutes, throw another body up front and give Robbie Keane a free role. Trap recognised the lack of ambition from an Italian side a goal up and a man down and reacted instantly. Later, Noel Hunt's intro for a tired Doyle sparked a life into Ireland's attack, and Darron Gibson gave a crispness to passing. John O'Shea went right-back to give more cut than Paul McShane.

All his switches worked as intended, Caleb Folan's sheer power eventually wreaked enough havoc for an equaliser (and nearly a winner). The lads on rte (seriously boys, have a bit of class, intelligence and positivity in recognising what happened last night rather than being obnoxious and ignorant) suggested Trap was chancing his arm when in fact the man showed he knew exactly what he trying to achieve. He had the balls and gumption to recognise the Italians were in defensive mode and change the mentality of the Irish side to go for it. That Robbie Keane eventually notched what was required only gave Ireland (and Trapattoni) their just rewards.

Now there are qualifications to all this giddiness. Italy completely handed Ireland all initiative, territory and possession pretty much for free. When they nicked the opener, it would have been perfectly natural for the Italians to sit very deep, soak up pressure and look for a 1-0 from there. It gave the Irish midfield and full-backs full permission to get on as much ball as they wanted. We may have lacked some guile and creativity in banging away at the door for so long - and again rte, Cannavaro and Chiellini's excellence were huge reasons for lack of chances, saying Cannavaro was poor is just plain wrong - but we kept plugging away with a belief when other sides may have thrown their hat at it. We showed a bit about ourselves when we needed to pull that out. Stephen Hunt had his best game for Ireland. Whelan and Andrews were positive and dynamic. It was heartening stuff.

From here, well it'd be crazy to expect Ireland to go to a dangerous Bulgaria in some sort of gung-ho, all-out pushing men forward mode. Expect Trapattoni to set us up in whatever way the game needs. We've now shown we can develop and change the system to suit. Onwards and upwards with confidence, if not delusionary ideas of anything being easy just cos we held the world champs.

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