Trapattoni has bold gameplan for Republic
For a brief few moments yesterday, it appeared as though Giovanni Trapattoni had abandoned his pragmatism to adopt a more flippant approach to life.
After joining his captain Robbie Keane in speaking positively about the prospects of qualifying automatically for South Africa, he moved onto the topic of Aiden McGeady, using the Celtic winger as an example to explain a wider point.
Essentially, his thesis on McGeady is that he needs to be braver when he enters the opposition penalty area. To take the odd punt at goal rather than assuming that his role is simply to provide crosses. If he misses, he should not feel guilty. "I would rather three mistakes and one goal than no mistakes and no goals," explained Trapattoni.
Sound logic, of course, but it's unusual to hear the 69-year-old advocating such a strategy. Overall, the central theme of his regime has been organisation and a concentrated improvement on cutting out sloppy errors. The result is the key; to aim for substance. Style is a bonus.
Sure enough, a few seconds after his McGeady observations, Trap was singing a more familiar tune when assessing the challenge presented by Georgia at Croke Park this evening.
"The result comes first, we need the right mentality," he said. "We can read newspapers for three days, and there can be criticism of a system or our performance, but on Thursday morning in the newspaper we will have the league table. That is the most important thing.
"I want to play well, yes. But I do not want to play well but not win, no. It is the result that is important. That is football. That is life."
That is Trap. It's the philosophy that brought him success in the past, so he's not going to cast it aside and preach the values of throwing caution to the wind. Nevertheless, he bristles at the suggestion that, in the Irish dugout, his approach has been overly cautious.
When the game against Cyprus in October is mentioned, or actually alluded to in any context, he returns to the suggestion that he should have sent his men in search of a second goal after the interval in that 1-0 success and that reticence was the primary cause of the nervy conclusion. Repeatedly, he points out that his friends in Italy considered that win to be a fine one, given the esteem in which they hold the Cypriots.
"Sometimes you ask me, why didn't we look for another goal against Cyprus," he sighed, "but Cyprus deserved to win against Italia. They are a very dangerous team."
So, what of Georgia? Not as dangerous as the Cypriots for sure, but still capable of presenting problems on their travels. Against Italy in September the margin of defeat was 2-0, but the second Azzurri goal did not come until injury-time. They made it difficult for Lippi and Co . On that night -- as against Ireland in Mainz five days earlier -- they shipped a goal in the first 20 minutes. If they can avoid that aberration here, things could get interesting.
For we still don't quite know if Trap's Ireland have a coherent Plan B. In the three Group 8 games thus far, the second-half story has been a case of what we have, we hold. The wins over Georgia and Cyprus were built on early goals, while avoiding defeat was the principle concern in Montenegro. Tonight, should Hector Cuper's charges succeed in frustrating Ireland in the opening exchanges, then risks will have to be taken.
And even if there is a one-goal lead, a more positive performance than the Cypriot display is required for there is a suspicion that the psychological impact of conceding late goals in recent times still lingers. Keane raised the topic himself yesterday, stating that the injury-time consolation granted to Georgia in Mainz is a clear example of where there is room for improvement. Putting it in other words, this team needs a cushion to avoid serious late jitters. While their media outings depict a team exuding confidence, this crop has yet to back that up with a commanding display at Croke Park to really lay down a marker.
Yes, there was an assertiveness about the manner in which the away tests against the Georgians and Montenegro were approached. Alas, back home against Cyprus and also in the November friendly with Poland, it was more tentative than tenacious..