The FAI’s decision to part company with manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his backroom team took few of us by surprise. Defeat in Austria ended our hopes of travelling to Brazil next summer and all eyes have now turned to qualification for Euro 2016.
While many Irish fans will be happy to see Trap’s reign come to an end, it may only be with the wisdom of hindsight that we appreciate the value of the Italian and the scale of his achievements. Let’s not forget, he became only the third Irish manager ever to qualify for a major finals.
With this in mind, I took a look at some data from qualification to Euro ’88 under Jack Charlton to our most recent failed attempt, Brazil 2014. This series covers five Irish managers (Charlton, McCarthy, Kerr, Staunton and Trapattoni) and plots the percentage of UEFA countries that qualified for each tournament out of the total number of UEFA members attempting to qualify.
The results are interesting. (Q denotes finals where Ireland qualified)
Qualification for Euro ’88, when just seven teams where successful via the qualifying groups, remains our greatest achievement. Qualification for Euro 2012 under Trapattoni is arguably the second best achievement by any Irish manager, with less than 28% of UEFA members qualifying via the group phase. In fact, Trap has been disadvantaged like no other Irish manager since 1987; the three campaigns he was in charge for permitting less than 28% of UEFA members to qualify. Compare this to Italia ’90 when more than 40% qualified, Euro ’96 when more than 38% qualified via the group stages and World Cup 2002 when 36% of UEFA members qualified for Korea and Japan.
Furthermore, qualification for both World Cups 2010 and 2014 when Trapattoni was manager, allowed less than one in four UEFA countries to proceed to the finals (just 24.53%). One must go back to the eight-team Euro ’92 in Sweden to find less favourable conditions.
With this evidence in mind, Trapattoni’s legacy should be grounded in the fact that he brought Ireland to a major tournament when only 27.45% of UEFA countries were allowed to qualify. Only the great Jack Charlton’s can better this.