Most figured Giovanni Trapattoni wasn’t long for Ireland after Friday’s 6-1 home loss Germany, but if there was any doubt, news that the 73-year-old Italian will skip tomorrow’s post-break press conference leaves little doubt:
At the end of the tweet, Palmeri, an Italy-based soccer journalist, alludes to today’s World Cup Qualifier at the Faroe Islands, a match that’s shaping up to be Trapattoni’s last. Though the former Juventus icon has restored some glory to Irish soccer during his five-year reign (qualifying the team for Euro 2012), he’s also been criticized for his stoic tactics. A conservative style helped stabilize the team in the years after his hire, but with the Irish looking more and more like sitting ducks against Europe’s best, there’s concern the team is no longer moving forward.
After a disappointing showing at Euro 2012, there were calls for Ireland to move on from Trapattoni, calls resisted by the FAI. After Friday’s embarrassment, there’s little support for retaining their boss beyond an expected victory at the Faroes.
That match (kicking off at 2:00 p.m. Eastern) is crucial to Ireland’s hopes of making Brazil 2014. As Friday showed, there’s little hope of besting Germany for the group’s automatic qualifying spot, but Ireland can still beat Sweden for second place, a slot that could send them into UEFA’s playoffs.
Even after losing to Germany, Ireland hasn’t lost much ground on the Sweded. The group’s playoff spot will likely be decided by the team’s two head-to-head meetings, giving the FAI incentive to solve their coaching problems as soon as possible.
Early, two candidates have emerged. As is required with any high profile job in the region, Harry Redknapp has been linked. While that would be a good move for Ireland, it’s unclear it would be a wise one for Redknapp, who still has reasonable expectations of slotting into the next big Premier League opening.
Then there’s the turnback the block candidate, Mick McCarthy, who coached the Irish from 1996 to 2002. More recently, McCarthy had a very successful run at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Though he was dismissed last season after a lopsided derby loss to West Bromwich Albion, Wolves’ subsequent collapse (from their already poor state) provided McCarty with some vindication.
McCarthy’s obviously the more realistic candidate, though if he were to replace Trapattoni, the appointment would re-start a cycle the Irish began five years ago. McCarthy’s presence would be stabilizing, his conservative approach providing some brief assurance after Friday’s demoralizing loss. But five, six years from now, will Irish soccer again lament their program isn’t something more? That’s what happened to McCarthy 10 years ago, and ignited by the Germany loss, that’s what’s happening to Trapattoni now.
If Trapattoni is replaced, Ireland needs to go in a different direction. McCarthy is not it. While it’s unclear the Irish are capable of playing a different way, they need to try. Else, might as well stick with Trapattoni.