Giovanni Trapattoni reviewed Ireland's European Championship prospects and said of his striking options, "I always say that I hope we avoid injury because if we lose Robbie Keane or Kevin Doyle at this moment there are no options."
That was Saturday. Yesterday, Trapattoni discovered that a knee injury would rule Doyle of tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifying tie against Slovakia. When the team leaves for Zilinia today Doyle will be in Wolverhampton, receiving treatment. It is a huge blow for Trapattoni, not least because his lack of options elsewhere in the team are such that he admitted he intended to stick to his 4-4-2 system against Slovakia even though it was badly exposed by Russia on Friday.
"I am not sure we have the potential, technically, to play one striker," Trapattoni said, adding: "You cannot start the game without either Keane or Doyle."
Now he has to decide whether to partner Keane with Shane Long, who made an impact in Dublin as a substitute on Friday, or Andy Keogh. His assistant, Marco Tardelli, said yesterday: "It's a problem because Doyle is a very good player. We have young players, like Long and Keogh, who are very good players but without the experience Doyle has in the Premier League."
Trapattoni said of his 4-4-2 system: "For the first hour we believe in our system. We must be convinced that we can win. After that we can change, but not immediately." The problem is Ireland conceded three times in that hour against Russia because, as Trapattoni admitted, "We could not contain them in midfield. They won 80 per cent of the ball as they always had one more in midfield. They could begin the play."
Trapattoni added that he feared Slovakia would play the same way as Russia: "I am not sure they will play with two strikers, maybe they play with [Vladimir] Weiss behind the striker."
Maybe it is all some clever, elaborate bluff. Alex Ferguson once said he would check under the sauce to see if the pasta was there, so distrustful was he of Italians, but Trapattoni has generally been straight with the Irish. He said there may be one or two changes, but it seems unlikely they will be positional.
Slovakia, already without their leading striker Robert Vittek, now have Martin Skrtel suspended and the former Chelsea forward Miroslav Stoch doubtful. They were deservedly beaten by Armenia on Friday.Reuse content