Friday, February 15, 2008

Trapattoni Gets His Pot of Gold But Little Else

In the late 80s, Englishman Jack Charlton built the Republic of Ireland national team into a respectable side, in large parts with English-born players with a weeeeeee bit of Irish blood (and in Tony Cascarino's case, none at all).

Fast forward to 2008, the Irish have gone English again, this time by hiring Italian coaching veteran Giovanni Trapattoni. Frankly, I don't know what the FAI and its billionaire sugar daddy expect out of him and unlike with Fabio Cappello, who looks to be the right man for England, it's hard to see Trap's reign of Eire ending well.

Whereas the knock on Fab Cap was that, for all his club success, he lacked international experience, the knock on Trapattoni is his international experience, having managed Italy from 2000 to 2004. He brought the worst out of Azurri's defensive tendencies and wasted Del Piero and Totti at their peak.

Trapattoni took over for Italy in 2000, after Dino Zoff took the team within stoppage time of winning Euro 2000, struggled in 2002 World Cup before being bounced out by Korea (deservedly, even if the officiating was shit), and couldn't get out of the group stage at Euro 2004. Considering Marcelo Lippi took over and won the 2006 World Cup, Trapattoni's record as international coach is pretty damning stuff.

His club management in recent years haven't been so hot either. Sure, he won the Bundesliga last year, but that's the Austrian Bundesliga. And he was disappointing as coach of Stuttgart in 2005-06, the same Stuttgart that went on to win the real Bundesliga the very next season.

As for Ireland, they haven't qualified for a major tournament since 2002, and there hasn't been a significant boost to their talent pool since Damien Duff came along. And if Trapattoni couldn't get anywhere with a backline anchored by Maldini and Nesta, I'm not sure what he's going to do with the central defense partnership of Dunne and O'Shea. He says he can help Ireland top Italy for a first place finish in its World Cup qualifying group, but all available evidence suggests he won't.

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