By Ronan Murphy
Giovanni Trapattoni likes to tell reporters and fans that the only thing that stands the test of time are results. The record books will show the score, but not reveal the performance. However, with Trapattoni's job on the line against the Faroe Islands, the performance has become much more important. Without a convincing display against the minnows of European football in this World Cup qualification showdown, the record books will show 'Giovanni Trapattoni, Republic of Ireland manager, February 2008-October 2012', make no mistake about that.
Before Euro 2012, Trapattoni was the toast of the nation, but three impotent performances at the finals, as well as a lucky yet hugely unmerited and unconvincing comeback against Kazakhstan swayed the opinion of fans and journalists alike. On Friday evening, Ireland succumbed to their worst ever competitive home defeat, a 6-1 annihilation at the hands of Germany. For a man who believes that results are all that matter, it was a huge turning point. Fans booed at the final whistle, and bookmakers stopped taking bets on his departure.
It has been rumoured that Trapattoni will be gone by the end of the week, regardless of the result and performance in the Faroe Islands, but it's difficult to see how the FAI can buy out his enormous contract and afford to finance a worthy replacement. However, if Ireland under-perform in Torshavn, the Football Association of Ireland will have no choice other than to sack the man who brought the Boys in Green to their first major tournament in 10 years.
But leaving aside Friday's scoreline, Trapattoni is actually making many of the right moves for Irish fans. Pundits had long been calling for a switch away from 4-4-2, the inclusion of Seamus Coleman and to give James McCarthy a start in midfield. All these things happened on Friday against Germany, but in the absence of senior names, Ireland capsized. Shay Given and Damien Duff's retirements have both hurt Trapattoni, on the field and in the dressing room, but the injury to veteran defender Richard Dunne left Ireland without a commanding presence in defence. One could argue that Dunne would have put his boot through the ball to clear it before it squirmed to Marco Reus for Germany's opener.
|If Ireland under-perform in Torshavn, the FAI will have no choice but to sack Trapattoni.
Against the Faroe Islands, Trapattoni has reverted to two up front, and having more firepower against the weaker teams is no bad thing. Marc Wilson replaces Stephen Ward, while Robbie Brady starts out wide. Had James McClean been fit, he probably would have got the nod instead of Brady. These are yet more changes that fans have been calling for. However, the media will always find somebody outside the team to champion. Wes Hoolahan is no longer flavour of the month. Instead, it's Shane Long, who has a better case than most for a starting berth, but his cameo on Friday was a poor one. Long looked like a spoilt child throughout, and was lucky not to be sent off for a couple of rash challenges. Furthermore, his striking rival Jonathan Walters was Ireland's best player on the night.
Trapattoni is currently trying to rebuild his side after the failure of the European Championship - a task not helped by another row with a squad member in the shape of Stephen Kelly, and the retirement of senior figures, but unless his side put in a convincing performance tonight, that task will be another man's problem. Ireland don't need to put seven past the Faroes because Germany scored six in Dublin, instead the team needs to control the game from start to finish, dominate possession and look comfortable in midfield. Robbie Brady will be a danger with his set-pieces, but Trapattoni needs good performances from all 11 players on the pitch to ensure he stays in the job.
Anything other than a comfortable win will seal his fate.
Giovanni Trapattoni's side face a crunch World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night and you can watch all the action live through Goal.com.