Trapattoni works to embolden his players for Paris

Trapattoni works to embolden his players for Paris

Giovanni Trapattoni will continue to course through his database of experience ...
17th Nov 2009


Giovanni Trapattoni will continue until kick-off time to course through his considerable database of experience in search of the formula to re-invigorate Ireland for Wednesday's World Cup play-off against France at Stade de France.

His task is to restore Irish confidence and repair some of the psychological damage that was inevitably inflicted by France's fortunate one goal win at Croke Park on Saturday.

The expressions on Irish faces at the final whistle that were captured on TV and on the pages of the following day's newspapers reflected the huge disappointment suffered by the players after their marvellous, spirited, performance.

They deserved more than to lose to an unlucky deflection after containing a highly-rated French forward line and denying them a clear-cut scoring opportunity over the 90 minutes.

Much was made afterwards of France's greater share of possession and they clearly enjoyed a distinct territorial advantage in the second half. But a disciplined Irish defence refused to allow them penetrate and most of the action took place 30/40 yards from Ireland's penalty area.

Indeed it looked as if France's inability to expose a pathway to Shay Given's goal had taken a toll of France's sense of belief just minutes before the goal arrived.

Their captain, Henry, was in possession 30 yards from goal and in space. He took a moment to check his options, saw no possibility of finding a gap in Ireland's defence and carelessly fired a left-foot shot well wide.

It looked like the action of a man who was close to settling for a draw. But then, five minutes later in the 72nd minute, Anelka struck a shot that did not look particularly menacing until a deflection took it away from Given.

The goal of course gives France a considerable advantage but a review of what happened on the night and an appreciation of where the contest rests at this moment suggests Trapattoni has much to work with as he restores Ireland's optimism and pumps up their confidence.

He can point to the fact that even if the match at Croke Park had finished scoreless, Ireland would still have been presented with the need to score in Paris if they were to win the tie without having to go through the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

Now, if Ireland succeed in scoring first it will, arguably, be very damaging to France for their attitude after the game in Dublin suggested they believed they already had the tie won. An opening goal for Ireland in Paris would rock them to the core.

Trapattoni can also, with justification, suggest to his players that their performance on Saturday was their best of the tournament. Goalkeeper Shay Given scarcely had a save of note to make.

He can point to the fact that Ireland created the more obvious scoring chances. Robbie Keane and Liam Lawrence in the one first half incident, Keith Andrews first half when he had time to set himself before angling a shot wide, John O'Shea after Richard Dunne's header from a corner early in the second, Kevin Doyle when he headed over Damien Duff's cross and, finally, Glenn Whelan's opportunity three minutes from time.

France's two best opportunities came from offside situations. Gignac finished superbly with a chip over Given in the 11th minute but, happily for Ireland, he was offside and Given made a brilliant save from Gignac's header in the 62nd minute but again the Frenchman was whistled for an infringement.

Fact is that France never once split open Ireland's defence, despite their greater share of the ball; not in the manner in which Italy ripped a huge gap in Ireland's defence when they scored their second equalising goal at Croke Park in October.

Italy's successful thrust at the heart of Ireland's defence on that occasion was facilitated by the fact that Ireland's players were high on emotion at the time, immediately after Sean St. Ledger's spectacular headed goal. They momentarily lost their concentration.

Yet it is a fact that France never once succeeded in prising open a gap to Given's goal. And Ireland were more than a match in the opening half when their energy levels were high and they produced the best and most balanced 45 minutes performance of the campaign.

It will come as no surprise if France play better on this occasion. Their confidence will have been boosted by their win in Dublin and playing in familiar surroundings will heighten their sense of security.

Trapattoni is no stranger to this situation and that will obviously be of importance to the players. His record of achievement is such that he must have overseen some of his teams rise above the challenge to triumph in circumstances similar to Ireland's current dilemma.

He will have worked to ensure that the disappointment etched on the faces of Ireland's players at the final whistle on Saturday will have been replaced by a steely determination to put that behind them and rise for one last decisive effort.

For it is true they were unlucky to lose and they must know they are capable of defeating France. Saturday's match illustrated that.

First they must fully embrace the message that Trapattoni has preached from the day he arrived on our shores and respond to what will surely be the enduring image he will leave behind when eventually he steps down.

That image is of the earnest Trapattoni engaging his audience in his characteristically intensive way while, fingers to his temples, he utters his mantra ... "believe, believe".