GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI will send his team out tonight against Slovakia in Zilina under no illusions about the fact that the longest honeymoon in international football is now very definitely over.
Defeat by Russia and the manner of the loss has caused a huge change in the way Trapattoni is viewed. Big cracks have opened up in his Irish set-up and they won't be resealed easily -- if ever.
In these dire economic times, suddenly Trapattoni needs to earn his massive wage packet and the only way to do that is to deliver qualification. Lose to Slovakia and Euro 2012 becomes an exercise in mathematics and forlorn hope. Draw and he keeps the show on the road but with his reputation much reduced.
The problem for the FAI if the worst happens is that Trapattoni would effectively be a lame duck manager, and an extraordinarily expensive one at that, who has said quite bluntly that he doesn't think Ireland are good enough to play their way out of trouble or into a tournament finals.
His system will remain in place and he's not for turning -- even if he now admits that he knew what was coming in the Aviva on Friday last.
"I understood our problem before the game against Russia but I couldn't change.
"I knew what my colleague Dick Advocaat could do. I will not change our system. I couldn't."
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