It was the best and most contested game of the tournament, but Ireland came through with a convincing display.
It’s been little more than a cakewalk overall, and I doubt that the Nations Cup will be making a return next year. Ireland played competently throughout the field, showed the more bite in the Scottish half, and were rewarded with Keane’s goal, though it was a shot that should have been saved.
Scotland made some openings but had no ability to finish the opportunities. Given had some slightly nervous moments in the second, but it was a game that Ireland were just slightly more interested in winning.
Anyway, now that the Nations Cup is done, we can go back to focusing on the real issues. This little tournament has been outperformed in the media by the ruckus surrounding James McCarthy and Anthony Stokes.
The whole situation has made me less enamoured with Trapattoni then I have ever been. He has demonstrated a clear lack of respect for players in the past, but this: threatening those who, following the immediate end of a very stressful football season, don’t want to risk their health in a friendly, is not the mark of a good manager.
McCarthy is just another in a long list of players who Trapattoni is treating like garbage. The man is not a good leader of people. McCarthy and Gibson, men who have turned their backs on their lands of birth to play for Ireland, have been given token places on subs bunches then sent packing back to their clubs. Trapattoni doesn’t go to England to watch matches, he gets into stupid feuds with players and so on and so forth.
And the result is a team that has flattered to deceive, outdone in ruthless style by Russia in Dublin. That was the real Ireland, the mediocre side we actually are. It is telling that Robbie Keane, a player who is only in the team because of his past goal scoring record and not because of actual form, is the only member of the current squad to criticise McCarthy and Stokes. Keane knows who his patron is, and knows when to tow the line, but the rest of the squad is clearly not so willing to bend over for a man who could, on a whim, send them into an exile they do not deserve.
Take the case of Ian Harte, performing well in the Championship. There is absolutely no argument that can be made for his exclusion from the Ireland squad that cannot also be made for Robbie Keane. Trapattoni does not want to know.
The game in Skopje, a place that has seen a number of awful results for Ireland, is a big test. Get the win, and Trapattoni will have silenced many critics. Draw, and we’re looking at the same old Ireland, pretending to be happy with shared points.
Lose, and Ireland will be all but done with another campaign, and Trapattoni will have permanently lost his sheen. If Ireland lose, if Keane utterly fails to perform in a competitive game again, if good players like McCarthy look on from the sidelines, if the route one-style that the manager loves doesn’t work again, the voices calling out against Trapattoni will get louder and louder.
Football 10/11 is still not quite done. Ireland play Macedonia on Saturday, which will be part of the last batch of matches of the regular season for most players. Following that, I might be tempted to give a review of the season, a player by player rundown, something like that. We’ll see.