So here we are having reached another international break, which means it must be time for the latest round of speculation regarding the future of Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
While the recently dismissed former Reading manager Brian McDermott has been linked in the red tops, Sky Sports News also interviewed FAI Chief Executive John Delaney this week too with the Italian’s future high on their agenda.
Delaney’s passionless response to the question spoke volumes for the importance of the Republic’s double-header with Sweden and Austria over this weekend.
The Irish may have gained a morale-boosting victory over Poland in last month’s friendly international at the Aviva, but this Friday’s trip to Stockholm has an altogether more daunting look.
Though Sweden and Ireland sit only a point apart in Group C, with both sides so far having beaten European giants Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands, it is their meetings with group leaders Germany that are the most salient results to this point.
The Germans inflicted Ireland’s heaviest ever home defeat in a 6-1 massacre in October. Conversely, Sweden performed a comeback of Lazarus proportions to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat after trailing 4-0 inside an hour in Berlin.
Despite the protestations of Irish captain Robbie Keane that there is nothing separating the two sides, bwin have installed Sweden as heavy odds-on favourites at 10/21 for victory in their 3way market, the draw is 3/1 and the boys in green follow at 6/1.
It truly is hard to make a case for the Irish on Friday, despite not losing a qualifier outside of the Emerald Isle under Don Trap.
There’s been a progressive wave of negativity since Ireland’s dismal Euro 2012 with turgid football, archaic tactics and ridiculous team selections. And even if that wasn’t the case then Friday night would still be a struggle, regardless of the roof situation at the Friends Arena.
Shay Given and Damien Duff have retired, Richard Dunne and Aiden McGeady are both injured, and it looks as though Jon Walters will miss out, too.
And Trapattoni’s previous distrust of Ireland’s new generation of players, Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, James McClean and Marc Wilson, means they will be ill-equipped for a very experienced Sweden side – they have a total of 33 international caps between them.
Sweden’s talisman should win his 90th and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also 3/1 to net first against the Irish. After 27 goals in 33 appearances for Paris Saint Germain this season, it’s hard to look beyond the pony-tailed primadonna – not to mention his awesome foursome against England last time out in a yellow and blue shirt.
With that said, Robbie Keane is 9/1, and that is large odds for a man with 54 international goals, so he should attract some interest.
Sweden should prove too strong, however, and 2-0 at odds of 21/4 could be the decisive bet – an outcome potentially worth £125 to any new customers staking their free £20 bet.
And if that is the case, then McDermott could be back in a job quicker than he thought.