What a difference a year makes.
This time 12 months ago, Giovanni Trapattoni was the toast of the Republic of Ireland after guiding the Green Army to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, the first major tournament for the nation since the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002.
An emphatic 5-1 two-legged play-off victory against Estonia was the crowning moment of a qualification campaign that was meticulously planned and expertly executed and even if the 73-year-old Italian’s conservative tactics caused some rumblings of discontent among the Irish fans, the end justified the means and qualification meant that Trapattoni was considered, if not on the same level as Jack Charlton, certainly as a national hero.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact time when that groundswell of public opinion changed its mind, but a year later the inescapable sense from Irish fans is that the former Bayern Munich coach has outstayed his welcome and must go. Much like his fellow Italian Fabio Capello at England, qualification for a major tournament seemed to bring about a bizarre situation where he could no longer do anything right and 2012 has been a disaster for Trapattoni.
The three warm-up games for Euro 2012 were underwhelming, with stories of player discontent leaking at every turn. That was bad enough, but what was to follow was horrendous: Ireland’s group of Italy, Spain and Croatia was a nightmare, but the Republic were so abject over the summer it was embarrassing and Trap should probably have fallen on his sword in the aftermath, to be replaced by a younger man.
Instead, he has limped on, and even if the five games since the Euros have brought three wins, a draw and just one defeat, that doesn’t tell the story. Those victories, against Oman, Kazakhstan and Faroe Islands, have been totally uninspiring, while the defeat was even more embarrassing than what happened over the summer.
Last month, Germany came to the Aviva Stadium and hammered Ireland 6-1 in one of the worst results in the country’s history and it should have been enough to see a change of manager.
It hasn’t, but I can’t see Trapattoni surviving in the job much longer and I see value in Greece going to Dublin in Wednesday’s friendly and coming away with a win. They are 7/4 to do so, with the draw at 9/4 and Ireland at 6/4.
The Greeks are in good form, too. Since exceeding expectations to get out of Group A at Euro 2012 (at the expense of the far more talented Russians and hosts Poland), Greece haven’t lost since their quarter-final defeat to Germany.
Four wins and a draw is the run that Fernando Santos’ side are currently enjoying and having won away at Norway, Latvia and Slovakia to take ten points from four World Cup qualifying games, they look a good bet to make the best of the limbo that Ireland find themselves in.
It looks like the Irish players have lost belief in Trapattoni and the next poor performance could see him pushed closer to the edge. At 7/4, I like the price on Greece to do that on Wednesday evening.