Anyone who suggests the Irish are incapable of making fun of themselves simply has to recall the joke the former Republic of Ireland defender Mark Lawrenson made about the predictability of his team's tactical strategy. "Sure if Plan A fails," Lawrenson said with a smile, "we can always opt for Plan A."
Time has not altered the widely-held view that Irish teams are wedded to 4-4-2 formations. There has been only one adjustment from this system in Giovanni Trapattoni's tenure, which came in Bari three years ago, when the Italians were reduced to ten men and 'Trap' immediately opted for a 4-3-1-2 shape.
The chance of him doing something similar again for Sunday's UEFA EURO 2012 opener against Croatia seems strong. After drawing against Hungary on Monday night, when their opponents managed to effectively position players in between Ireland's lines of four defenders and midfielders, Trapattoni has spoken openly about changing his plans.
"At half-time last night, I took Robbie [Keane] aside and asked him to play a little deeper," said Trapattoni. "He can do this role cleverly. He has the quality. And if it has to be done, it has to be done. It is something we Italians are used to doing in order to get a result. Sometimes the best defender on the pitch has to be your striker."
Change is not something Ireland's players are afraid of either, with striker Jonathan Walters, saying: "With our clubs we make three, four tactical changes per match. It’s what we do."
What Ireland's players must do, to stay sweet with Trapattoni, is adhere to his work ethic. "There is a player in my squad - I won't name him - who, under a previous Ireland manager, ventured up field once. Ireland lost the ball," Trapattoni recalled. "The man he was supposed to be marking scored while he had stayed upfield. He had washed his hands of blame like Pontius Pilate. As a manager, I can't allow that thing to happen."
Much is happening for Ireland this week, though. After attending a civic reception in the afternoon, the players then trained in front of 12,000 fans, who saw 20 of the 23 players work out. John O'Shea, Shay Given and Glenn Whelan were rested but, Trappattoni insisted, all three will be available for Sunday.
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