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Today's talking points from Euro 2012

Should Ireland be worried by the absences from training? Is Giovanni Trapattoni really going to change his formation so close to such a crunch game… would that even be wise? Miguel Delaney looks at the key points.

Will Shay Given and John O’Shea actually start against Croatia?

The only dampener on an almost perfect first day in Gdynia was the disquiet that spread on the sidelines when it became apparent that neither John O’Shea nor Shay Given were exactly participating in training.

At one end, as Keiren Westwood and David Forde acrobatically launched bicycle kicks at each other, the number-one – who conspicuously went off early on Monday night – just stood there prodding balls to them.

In the middle of the pitch, a 10 v 9 game was taking place with Damien Duff the man drifting between the two teams and O’Shea nowhere to be seen.

As it stands, it seems highly unlikely that the Sunderland full-back will be fit enough to play on Sunday.

With Given, however, Trapattoni insisted that any anxiety is unnecessary. The staff were just taking precautions.

“He is fit,” the manager insisted. “He has no injury.

“He will train [the next day].”

And, it increasingly appears, play on Sunday too.


Is Giovanni Trapattoni really considering switching to 4-5-1? Can he even pull it off in so short a space of time?

When you really think about it, it would be extremely radical for a manager as unbending as Trapattoni to change a rigid four-year approach so close to such a crucial game.

As such, it was perhaps not surprising that he rowed back substantially from Monday night’s comments – which, it must be remembered, were said in a state of high anxiety – that he was seriously considering it.

In Gdynia, Trapattoni only conceded that three in midfield remains an option to explore. But, having had the chance to watch and review the Hungary game with a clearer mind the next morning, he felt there were more explanations for Hungary’s chances than just Ireland being outnumbered in the middle.

For one, Trapattoni felt that, due to a number of reasons – from the wait for the game to start beforehand to the simple psychology of only being six days from the start of the tournament – the team weren’t quite at their best or sharpest. As such, this caused a drop-off in how they normally fulfil their roles, creating the kind of extra space for Hungary to (almost) excel in. By his press conference, the manager seemed to feel that this will not be an issue in a more exacting, higher-pressure occasion.

And, although there are probably still issues as regards Ireland being outmanoeuvred in the middle – as we saw, particularly, against Russia in a game Trapattoni himself namechecked – there are equal concerns about implementing a new system so close to such a crunch game.

Contrary to some perceptions, such shifts aren’t as simple as just switching a position or slightly altering a single player. And that’s especially not the case when you’ve spent four years fixating on another formation.

New rhythms have to be learned, new interchanges have to be understood.

And that’s a lot to do in four days. Particularly when, as Jonathan Walters said, the team haven’t practiced it at all.

In the long term, it would be hugely beneficial for Trapattoni to train the team in a supplementary system that will give them an extra option.

In the extreme short term, however, it might just cause more problems.

Other observations

  • Think this Irish team lacks glamour? Think again. The 15,000-strong crowd in Gdynia’s municipal stadium were certainly enamoured. Trapattoni was understandably moved by the sheer numbers.
  • The average number of passes it took for Irish players to lose the ball in their games of piggy in the middle (or, as Barcelona call it, ‘Rondo’)? Seven. Of course, it’s not this that players care about. All they’re worried about in such games is getting megged. There was a humorous moment between Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters as the tricky winger thought he’d done Walters only for the forward to immediately close his legs and keep out the ball… to his great glee.
  • At the end of the training session. Marco Tardelli brought Darron Gibson aside for a long chat while constantly using “rotation motions” with his arms. The Everton midfielder seemed deep in thought for some time afterwards.
  • It seems Aiden McGeady has got his wish. With the winger complaining of fatigue on Monday and the squad having seemingly been set for more media responsibilities less than 24 hours after the open training session, management decided to give them all the day off.

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