Giovanni Trappatoni and his Republic of Ireland team face a crunch game against Sweden on Friday night, with the game proving likely to have a big say on who finishes second in the World Cup qualifying game in Stockholm.
Trappatoni’s pragmatic and defensive style of play, coupled with controversial team selections, has its critics from the Ireland faithful. A poor showing in last year’s Euro 2012 competition followed by an embarrassing 6-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Germany last October has done little to win over the Irish fans.
His tactics and defensive approach will be sure not to change this Friday, against a Swedish team who drew 4-4 with Germany after being 4-0 down last year in Group C. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s influence on the game will need to be curbed by the Irish defence.
Regarding the squad to face Sweden and Austria, Wolves forward a former Trappatoni favourite Kevin Doyle has been dropped, though he remains on the stand-by list for the Irish side.
Fans will be happy to see the inclusion of Everton star Seamus Coleman, and he will be pushing for a start after an impressive performance which won many plaudits in Everton’s 2-0 win over English champions Man City at the weekend.
Ireland again will be relying on their talisman Robbie Keane for goals, but after lacklustre performances at Euro 2012 many will wonder can Ireland’s record goal-scorer still carry the burden.
Big performances from Wigan’s James McCarthy and Sunderland’s James McClean are needed on the night too.
The retirement of Shay Given means there a big boots to be filled in the goalkeeping department, and with Kieran Westwood not getting first team football for Sunderland, Trappatoni might look at David Forde, the 33 year old Millwall keeper was impressive in a recent 2-1 friendly win over Poland.
With three games played each Sweden sit 2nd in Group C with Ireland one point behind in 3rd, so a draw at worst in Stockholm is vital for Irelands World Cup play-off aspirations. Group C favourites Germany sit in 1st with 10points.
However Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired Sweden have their own World Cup aspirations, and rightly go into this tie as favourites, against the men in green.