Paul will be here from 4.30pm. Ish. In the meantime, take a look at Paul's pre-match thoughts on the blog:
For too long the Republic of Ireland have behaved like Stoke City's idiot twin. During his four-year reign Giovanni Trapattoni has ordered Ireland to play like Tony Pulis's team despite having more creativity at his disposal and less power. There have been a few moments when that description didn't fit – a couple of good friendly wins and, most famously, the draw in Paris in the 2010 World Cup play-off, when Ireland played slickly only for the luck that had enabled them to make it that far to suddenly defect to the French– but overall Trapattoni's tenure has been characterised by double-barrelled perverseness: the manager persisting with tactics that make Ireland look worse than they actually are, and results contriving to make the manager's tactics appear better than they actually are. Until Euro 2012, that is. There the unsustainable pattern collapsed and Ireland copped three overdue thrashings, leaving Trapattoni's instructions looking as inspired as Clint Eastwood's chat with a chair.
Stoke, of course, have given notice that they intend to add more nuance to their playing style, with Pulis recently buying some scheming central midfielders. Trapattoni, aware of the rising despair at his dogmatism, has hinted at a fresh approach too. He even gave a belated first start to James McCarthy during the August friendly in Serbia and the artful Wigan player will make his competitive debut when Ireland kick off their World Cup campaign in Kazakhstan on Friday.
Welcome, shock-seekers. For I assume that you are tuning in because you are hoping to hear tell of either (a) Kazakhstan notching a famous victory that puts them on the football map and shunts Giovanni Trapattoni out the green door or (b) the Republic of Ireland showing hints of unpredictability and variety for the first time under the arch-dogmatist and igniting hope that real change is afoot. The Italian claims he has seen the light after years in the darkness resulted in him guiding the country witlessly into Euro 2012 humiliation, but he has yet to seriously back it up with actions. As mentioned in the blog thing below, the inclusion of James McCarthy is a step forward – even if it was pretty much forced on the manager by the suspension of Keith Andrews – and it will be interesting to see to with extent the Wigan youngster is allowed to receive the ball from full-backs, play it to team-mates and even run forward with it from a central position, all of which are enterprises that Trap has generally banned central midfielders from attempting. But several others inclusions, most glaringly those of Robbie Keane and Stephen Ward, plus the usual 4-4-2 formation, suggest the Italian is not truly for turning. The forecast, alas, must be for tepid fare and a 0-0 draw or possibly 0-1 away win.
Kazakhstan: Sidelnikov; Kirov, Kislitsyn, Mukhtarov, Nurdauletov, Konysbayev, Bogdanov, Ostapenko, Shmidtgal, Nusserbayev, Rozkhov.
Ireland: Westwood; O'Shea, O'Dea, St Ledger, Ward; Cox, Whelan, McCarthy, McGeady; Keane, Walters
Ref: Avram Ionut (Romania)
The teams totter out on to the plastic pitch, to polite applause from a small crowd and ... combined German and English commentary on the feed I'm following it on: throw in a bit of Italian and we'd have authentic Trapattoni gobbedygook .
That Kazakh anthem is magnificent! A booming masterpiece that sounds like it is being propelled to the heavens from the very bowels of the earth, or perhaps a fanatical Laibach fan.
The German in the gantry appears to have been made walk the plank ... and replaced by a plank, who so far has shared such insights as "the Republic if Ireland have good fans" and "both sides will want to win here".
1 min: Off we go. From kick-off Ireland work the ball immediately back to Ward, who smashes it 70 yards forward. Behold the brave new dawn!
3 min: After a bout of kick and rush from IReland, the ball breaks to McCarthy, whose low curling shot from the edge of the area is tipped behind for a corner. There follows another corner as O'Dea header is pushed behind. Walters meets the next one, but his header is deflected behind for yet another corner. This time McGeady's delivery eludes everyone. But the early evidence suggests the home side are hopeless in the air; and Ireland are certainly going to continue trying to exploit that.
6 min: McGeady turns past a dazzled defender on the edge of the area before firing wide.
8 min: Kazakhstan have settled at last and, to the excitement of the suddenly very noisy fans, they piece together the first flowing move of the game, comprising up to five passes. There was a shot at the end of it but the camera lens isn't big enough to reveal exactly where it ended up. "Be fair to the plank," blurts Casey Murphy of the 5.02pm comment. "Reasonable observers might often wonder whether Trappatoni does want to win."
10 min: Change? The Irish full-backs are hoofing the ball towards Walters at every opportunity. It's as if McCarthy isn't on the pitch. The Kazakhs are tidier and more imaginative in possession but have so far shown no sign of a cutting edge.
14 min: In all fairness, this is abysmal from Ireland. "It amazes me that the FAI lets Trappatoni pick the team without being obliged to attend any of his players' club games," fumes Justin Kavanagh. "So it's hardly surprising that he picks the same players over and over. Televised games hide a multitude of weaknesses and failings. Consider a player like Keane, who may miss several games in the MLS, then play against a recently formed club and score handily. How could any coach draw any conclusion from the striker's form or fitness from watching by DVD? This is management by remote control. It strikes me that after the Staunton debacle, the FAI decided that a semi-retired coach doing half the job is their best bet, especially as someone else is paying his wages." It's low farce, is what it is.
17 min: Kirov raids forward down the left in a way the Irish fullbacks would never be allowed to do. He then combines well with Nusserbayev and the reasonably impressive Ostapenko before Ireland eventually scramble to smother the attack.
19 min: A mistake at the back by Kazakhstan gifts Ireland possession in a dangerous area but McGeady botches two good shooting opportunities.
20 min: Keane takes control of the ball in the opposing box, swivels, then shoots into the sidenetting. I didn't see how the chance came about and the TV people have apparently scrapped replays: it's as if they just want to get this match over and done with it as quickly as possible ... "Am I the only Irish fan who hopes Kazakhstan win?" Hugh Collins dares to ask. "In the long run, it may be the best thing for the ireland team. Colemand, McCarthy et al could easily end up just refusing to play for Ireland if this continues."
21 min: Westwood hurtles off his line to dive at the feet of Konysbayev as Kazakhstan continue to apply a helter-skelter sort of pressure.
23 min: Ireland produce their most intricate piece of play so far and, lo and behold, they create a decent chance. McGeady coolly picked out Cox, who swapped quick passes Keane before firing into the sidenetting.
24 min: Trapattoni's strategy for coping with the plastic pitch appears to be to keep the ball in the air as much as possible ...
27 min: This is brainless stuff from Ireland. Kazakhstan are clearly a weak team but Trapattoni's men are playing to such a frill-free game plan that the hosts are almost comfortable. It would not take much passing and movement to carve this team up, but Ireland's preference is for punts and bluster.
31 min: The keeper comes to try to catch a McGeady freekick from the left and gets just enough of a touch to take it off the head of O'Dea. The ensuing corner comes to nothing.
33 min: Kazakhstan make it into Ireland's half for the first time in about five minutes and, after, a couple of dinky passes, Bogdanov's attempted shot is charge down by St Ledger and Whelan.
35 min: O'Shea provides an overlap for the first time in the game and duly receives the ball from McGeady. But his subsequent cross is dross. Elsewhere, Kerzakhov has just hit the post for Russia, who are still 1-0 up against Northern Ireland with 13 minutes to go.
GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-0 Rep of Ireland (Nuradauletov 37')
Despite the palpable inferiority of the opposition, Ireland have not aspired to do anything more than the most rudimentary tasks of football so far, and now they have failed to meet even that low standard: Nuradauletov was allowed to jump and meet a Shmidtgal frrekick from eight yards and he sent his header into the net.
40 min: Cripes! The Kazakhs almost make it two! Ireland are a shambles and after Westwood parried a long shot, a home player rushed on to the rebound and clattered it against the post!
43 min: The hosts seem buoyed by their goal and playing with extra dynamism: they don't look like giving up their lead as easily as they got it ... and so far Ireland don't look producing anything intelligent enough to get back into the game. If this approach doesn't change, and if McClean and Long don't come on at half-time, it will be an outrage.
Half-time: Trapattoni has got 10 minutes to abandon decades-old principles. Optimistic?
Green mist "I'm with Hugh Collins," announces Justin Kavanagh. "The best thing that could happen is if this pretence at running an international team is exposed tonight by Kazakhstan on the plastic pitch. Workers in the former Soviet Union had a saying 'they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work'. The Irish players' take on that tonight would be 'he pretends to coach us, and we pretend to play.'"
Unacceptable, that's what this has been, especially after all the clapTrap about change. It's the stupidity of the approach that is so infuriating: Ireland simply could not have deployed a game plan less likely to expose Kazakhstan's limitations and more likely to hide Ireland's modest but superior skills. In a sense this half has been more dispiriting that then 5-2 defeat to Cyprus that did for Stan Staunton, because rather than disjointed farce, this is organised incompetence.
46 min: NO CHANGES AT HALF-TIME! Change the manager now, I'm saying.
48 min: Hooof! O'Shea eschews a pass into midfield to kindly give the ball back to Kazakhstan.
50 min: The first shot of the second half comes in from Nussebayev, who took the ball down on his thigh and then blasted over from 20 yards. Goal kick to Ireland ... and ten seconds later Kazakhstan have the ball back, courtesy of more Trap-pleasing hoofery. This cannot go on!
53 min: It's the willful dumbness of this performance by Ireland that makes it so outrageous. And it's encouraging the Kazakhs, who are pinging the ball around in a way that Ireland refuse to do and looking marginally the more dangerous of two mostly blunt sides.
56 min: The commentator seems to think Kevin Doyle could be the answer off the bench. And while it's probable that he'd do better than Keane, who has barely touched the ball (and, in fairness, barely been given a pass that he could be reasonably expected to do anything with), Doyle's omission was one Trap decision I agreed with : the Wolves striker has been below par for a while now. Long and McClean would be a much better bet, and Coleman on the right. I only mention this because there has been nothing else to mention in the last few minutes. This is pap.
Ireland substitution: OK, here comes Doyle. Off goes Cox.
61 min: There is a pause in the game because a Kazakh player is injured. And possibly also because the Irish players have a mutiny to plot? "I'm sensing you're a bit down on Trap," notes canny Simon McMahon. "But at least you were at Euro 2012. I'm one of I suspect many Scotland fans who would give their right arm for three thrashings at a major finals." I said at the time that Ireland were lucky to get to the Euros and such success was unsustainable with Trap's methods.
63 min: OK, the Kazakh has recovered and "play" has resumed. I think.
65 min: McGeady, who has probably touched the ball more than any other Irish player, receives an actual pass wide on the left, behind the defender. He could so some damage here ... but he treads on the ball and knocks it out of play, then re-enacts Edvard Munch's scream. A nation does likewise.
67 min: The Kazakh keeper comes to claim another aimless cross. "You got a bum assignment there, Paul<" scoffs Victor Bear. "While you tear off your goatee, watching the Trap kill Irish football one hoofed ball at a time, I'm watching Liechtenstein play Boznia-Herz in a stadium that makes the old Plough Lane look like the Nou Camp. Liechtenstein are very much the Irish of this contest, sitting behind the ball, waiting for the apocalypse. The BH fans are doing the reverse Poznan in the stand, which consists of jumping up and down while actually watching the game (somebody should point this practical adjustment out to the Poznan fans). I think it's still 0-0 after 20 min, but I get distracted every time they show a shot with those magnificent snow-capped Alps in the background." Ireland are not sitting behind the ball, they are scurrying underneath it.
69 min: Hopeful squeals from the crowd as Nusserbayev tries his luck from 25 yards ... his shot is well-struck, but it fizzes inches wide. And on that note, Nusserbayev is replaced by Jolcheyv. Trapattoni, meanwhile, apparently sees no reason to make any more substitutions yet.
71 min: At last! Another substitution from Ireland and on comes Long. Off goes Walters. But where is McClean?
73 min: Sidelnikov clasps a 30-yard Whelan shot to his chest and, perhaps, stifles a laugh.
75 min: Kazakhstan deal easily with a 40-yard freekick sent into their box by Whelan. "This is horrific," screams Paul Rock. "I'm sitting in Dublin watching this and when I look out the window I see kids playing hurling and rugby in the street. They have no interest in this game. By sticking with Trap, the FAI have set back soccer in Ireland by years. We were never a great nation, but always had a few players in each generation that would encourage kids to play. Trap has killed all love or enjoyment in Irish football. This is a sad day. Also a milestone….a nadir in our football history." But at least we seem to have some wise kids.
77 min: The best chance of the second half so far is created by the only team that has tried to be creative: Jolchev peels of St Ledger and receives a pass into his path, but his Westwood diverts his 16-yard shot behind for a corner.
79 min: Lots of bluster around the Kazakh box now, but still no sign of Ireland summoning the wit to penetrate. "I made the wise decision to not watch the game so am just following your MBM," sighs Darragh Thomas. "I'm not even sure I want us to qualify for Brazil. I love the World Cup anyway, I don't need us to compete in it to enjoy it. I definitely would have enjoyed the Euros more had we not have taken part. There was about 20 of us having a great day in a beer garden, having a great day half watching Spain v Italy. We all pile back to a friends house to watch the Ireland game properly. By half time the mood was absolutely miserable."
80 min: As Sidelnikov comes to claim another long ball, the commentator reckons "it's just a case of pumping the ball into the box for Ireland at this stage". Erm, that's all they've been trying to do all game.
82 min: All too easy for Kazakhstan. Simply by keeping their shape and jumping above Ireland's small forwards, they are protecting their lead comfortably.
87 min: Penalty to Ireland! Rozkhov pushed Keane over to stop him latching on to an error by Mukhtarov.
GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-1 Ireland (Keane pen 88') Keane sends the keeper the wrong way, which, regardless of how this match ends, is the direction that Ireland are still heading under Trap.
GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-2 Ireland (Doyle 89') A totally undeserved but very well taken winner, courtesy of Doyle, who raced on to a Ward header and thundered a volley into the net from 16 yards. Jamnation once again for Trap.
90 mins: Kazakhstan are trying to snatch a late equaliser but they are broken. "This is the worst thing that could have happened," sobs Nilly Murphy, who does not need to elaborate.
Full-time: Three points is unjustly lavish reward for the one simple-minded idea that guided Ireland through this match. Hats off, at least, to the spirit of the Irish players who at least showed spirit amid the witless assignment given to them by lucky Trap. "Despite what Trappatoni will say about results, no one Irish will remember this result with any pride, and noone will be able to forget such an abject performance," sums up Justin Kavanagh. Right, I'm off to MBM Wales v Belgium, which should prove to be an entirely different sport to what we've just witnessed.