Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has laughed at the latest criticism to come his way and promised fans: “We can still make the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.”
Pundits Eamon Dunphy and Niall Quinn have called for Trapattoni to resign after a 1-1 draw in Sweden was followed by a 2-2 scoreline at home to Austria last Tuesday in vital World Cup qualifiers.
Austria only leveled through a David Alaba goal two minutes into injury time at the Aviva Stadium, but the critics have had a field day.
Trapattoni, with six months left in his current deal with the FAI, is refusing to budge and insists he can still lead his team to the World Cup finals.
The Italian said after the Austria game, “There is a long way to go and we have the same possibility we had. This team can grow more in confidence and personality.
“Obviously I am not satisfied with this draw, but I have got to accept that we were missing a bit of experience.
“But we hit the post through Shane Long and the last goal was a deflection, so I can say we have been a little bit unlucky -- a little bit, but not much.
Trapattoni had targeted four points from the two games but had to settle for just two.
He still insists he will be in charge when Ireland resumes World Cup action against the Faroe Islands in June.
Asked about his future, he said, “Why not? We are the same in the table. It has not changed.”
The Irish players conceded an early goal at home to Austria but fought back to lead through two Jonathan Walters goals, one from the penalty spot, before the late leveler.
Everton defender Seamus Coleman admitted, “It’s very disappointing. We tried to hold out and get all three points, but it was a sucker goal at the end.
“We’re still a bit bitter at the minute. It’s hard to take. I thought we got the win, but we move on to the next game.”
Striker Shane Long was devastated by Austria’s late equalizer.
“It’s fairly devastating, it would have been a big three points for us. But we can’t let it get us down too much. We will be disappointed but we will have to push on and get over it,” he said.
“After we got the second I thought we would go on and get a third and kick on. We had a few chances where we needed a bit of luck.”
Striker Conor Sammon also refused to accept that Ireland’s World Cup bid is over after making his competitive debut in the draw with Austria when he came into the starting team for captain Robbie Keane, injured in the away draw with Sweden.
“It’s definitely disappointing to come away with just a point, and two points from the two big games,” Sammon said.
“Obviously, the league is very tight. We know we still have to play Austria away and Sweden here as well, so there are still lots of points to play for.
“As a group, we just need to try to be positive and just take it one game at a time and try to move forward.
“I definitely think we can still qualify. There’s no reason why we can’t.
“It didn’t go to plan when they scored so early on, but credit to the lads for going in at halftime 2-1 up.
“It’s just disappointing and hard to swallow just now that it is only two points instead of four.”
Lennon’s Fury at Celtic Draw
MANAGER Neil Lennon was left fuming with the referee after Celtic’s controversial draw at St. Mirren on Sunday – a result that saw their lead cut to 13 points at the top of the Scottish league table.
Midfielder Victor Wanyama received a red card, and Lennon described referee Bobby Madden’s performance as “appalling” after St. Mirren cancelled out an early Kris Commons goal with a Paul McGowan equalizer from a disputed penalty 10 minutes from full-time.
An angry Lennon said, “That was the most appalling refereeing performance I have seen for a long, long time. I mean, you can’t get so many big decisions so wrong, it is incredible.
“For me St. Mirren should have had a penalty in the first half. It is a clear handball. You don’t get many more as clean-cut as that so we dodged a bullet there.
“Then I see Kayal getting wrestled into the advertising hoardings right in front of the linesman and he doesn’t give a free-kick and two seconds later, I’ve got a man sent-off for nothing and the penalty that St. Mirren did get was outside the box and there is no contact.
“So I am delighted that we got a point out of it, but there is no doubt that the referee’s decisions ruined what could have been potentially a good game.”
Celtic will appeal against Wanyama’s red card.
“I am concerned now about the standard of refereeing,” said Lennon.
“I have kept my counsel on it for a couple of months but there have been some really bizarre decisions, not just against my team, which have baffled me.
“Today is by far the most blatant performance I have seen. It was really poor.”
Celtic are now 13 points clear of Motherwell and could clinch the title with a home win over Hibernian on Saturday.
Commons could miss the Hibs game with the ankle injury picked up at St. Mirren, while captain Scott Brown is out for at least a month after surgery on an abductor problem which has been troubling him all season.
Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley, meanwhile, has dismissed speculation linking him with a return to Cardiff, and is adamant he wants to stay at Celtic next season.
Bulgarian striker Aleksandar Tonev has been linked with a move to Celtic.
McCoist Eyes Irish Striker
RANGERS boss Ally McCoist has confirmed his interest in Irish striker Jon Daly and doesn’t care where the current Dundee United captain is from.
McCoist said, “It’s 2013, I couldn’t give a monkeys. I’d sign anyone from anywhere. Look at the position we’re in!
“I don’t want to make it sound that’s why we’re going for Jon – it’s not, far from it.
“But who am I to pick and choose who’d be able to come to this football club? I’d try to sign anybody we think has got talent and would be good enough to play for Rangers.
“I knew it wouldn’t be an issue for the big fella and it’s certainly not an issue for us. That was a hundred years ago.
“Since Maurice Johnston we’ve had Italian Catholics, you name it, so it ain’t a problem. We have a young goalkeeper here from the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s certainly not been an issue in our time and it will continue absolutely not to be an issue.”
Sligo Still Perfect
SLIGO Rovers maintained their 100 percent start to the Airtricity League season with a comfortable 3-0 win at UCD on Monday night. Derry City look the side most likely to challenge the champions and won 2-0 at home to Bray on the Bank Holiday Monday.
Bohs won the Dublin derby 1-0 at Shelbourne, while Drogheda United scored from a last minute penalty to draw 1-1 with visitors Cork City.
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