Stephen Kelly rumours increase pressure on Giovanni Trapattoni

 

Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland manager, will turn to youth and experience tonight as he attempts to recover from the heavy defeat to Germany in Dublin on Friday evening. Robbie Keane, the all-time record Irish goalscorer, will return up front. Robbie Brady, the 20-year-old midfielder from Manchester United, will make his first competitive start. Marc Wilson will come in at left-back.

Against the Faroe Islands in Torshavn tonight, Trapattoni will hope whichever team he picks will be superior. The Faroes are nearly at the opposite end of the European football spectrum from Germany, who embarrassed the Republic at the Aviva Stadium with their youthful, fluid football. The 6-1 scoreline was the worst competitive home defeat in Irish history. Aside from what it has done to Ireland's hopes of reaching their first World Cup since 2002, it has inflicted severe damage on Trapattoni's popularity. Efficient, conservative football is one thing, but when it leads to such brutal defeats it is pointless.

The Italian was dogged yesterday with rumours that Fulham defender Stephen Kelly, an unused substitute on Friday, had to be persuaded to board the plane after a fall-out with assistant manager Marco Tardelli. Trapattoni denied there had been any row and rejected suggestions that today's game would be his last in charge. "Absolutely not," he said. "I ask you why? We have started the qualifying campaign and we have lost one game to Germany. There is no reason.

"I am sure the team will have a good reaction, I am sure as we have had in the past when we have lost other games."

The immediate victims of Friday will be Andy Keogh, who has a head injury, Stephen Ward and Keith Fahey. Keane should provide more of a threat up front at the Torsvollur Stadium, as well as experience. Last Friday was Ireland's first competitive game in 15 years to include none of Keane, Damien Duff, Shay Given and Richard Dunne, and it showed. Although Duff and Given retired from international duty at the end of the European Championship earlier this year, Dunne and Keane are available.

The Faroe Islands manager, Lars Olsen, is worried about how Ireland might respond to Friday's thrashing. "When you lose 6-1 at home in a country like Ireland, you will be under pressure," he said yesterday. "We know Ireland are the favourites, as Sweden were [on Friday], but we will try our best. The Faroe Islands are a small team and almost every team we are playing will be the favourites."

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