If Friday’s game against Sweden was a “must not lose”, then this clash with Austria – always likely to be the more difficult of the two ties – is now quite simply, a “muse win” for the Republic of Ireland to maintain any lingering hopes of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup.
In reality, if (and it’s a big if), Ireland do beat Austria, then what’s required is for Sweden to not win in Kazakhstan on the same night and the Republic will be right back on track. Austria could only draw 0-0 in Astana, so the latter outcome is not beyond the realms of possibility.
The former result does, on current form, appear to be beyond the realms of possibility however. Austria were comprehensively beaten by runaway group winners Germany on Friday, so the confidence of Marcel Koller’s side could well be on a low, but the central European side’s confidence will hardly be lower than that of the Boys In Green (or black as they will be wearing on Tuesday night).
Things stated brightly for the Irish against Sweden on Friday night. Having dominated the opening quarter of the game, Giovanni Trapattoni’s took a 22nd minute lead through Robbie Keane, though they took their foot off the pedal thereafter and had no Plan B when Sweden ended up taking a 2-1 lead some ten minutes into the second half.
Trapattoni’s reign is, as it has seemed for some time, something of a shambles. Marc Wilson summed it up best over the weekend when he admitted that the players did not always know what the manager wanted from them, saying “That’s a hard one to answer,” when asked if the players understood Trapattoni’s instructions. “They’re coming across as clearly as we can make out.”
After more than five and a half years as manager of the national team, one imagines that the ability to speak the same language as the players would help those players understand what was expected of them by the manager. The fact that Trapattoni hasn’t bothered learning the language over such a period of time is a damning indictment of his time in charge of the Republic of Ireland.
Austria have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match and could therefore name the same team that lost to Germany on Friday. It had been reported that Andreas Weimann was struggling with a muscular complaint, but the Aston Villa forward is expected to line up in attack alongside Marko Arnautovic.
The Republic of Ireland have a number of injury concerns, however, with Jonathan Walters, Glenn Whelan and Simon Cox all facing late fitness tests. While the former has a chance of making the clash, Whelan and Cox are rated as doubtful.
Their absence could allow the likes of Anthony Pilkington and Paul Green to come into the team, but Robbie Keane will once more captain the side and lead the line alongside Shane Long.
Austria: Almer; Dragovic, Fuchs, Pogatetz, Alaba; Garics, Kavlak, Harnik, Ivanschitz; Weimann, Arnautovic.
Republic of Ireland: Forde; O’Shea, Wilson, Dunne, Coleman; McCarthy, Pilkington, Green; McClean, Keane, Long.