Giovanni Trapattoni will travel to the Faroe Islands seeking the victory that will preserve his job. This is not a sentence that anybody could have imagined when the Italian was the managerial doyen of Serie A or, indeed, early June, when he prepared to take his Republic of Ireland team to Euro 2012, the nation's first appearance at a major finals in 10 years.

Yet football has the boundless capacity to manufacture humbling reality checks. If the tournament in Poland and Ukraine brought three defeats and a psychological pounding, the Irish hit rock bottom on Friday night when Germany presented them with a 6-1 home defeat in World Cup qualifying Group C.

Trapattoni's team had been hit by injuries but they looked as though they had lost their way. All of the old staples were gone: the courage, aggression and discipline, to be replaced by fragility and chaos. It was shocking to witness the totality of Ireland's collapse once Germany had scored their first goal after the half-hour, and it was easy to worry that once such a slide has set in, it is impossible to halt.

And so to the Faroes, and the notion that Ireland will essentially be playing for Trapattoni's future. "It's not just the manager," said the striker Jon Walters. "Everyone's future is in doubt. Every single place on the team is up for grabs. It wasn't good enough. The manager didn't have to say much when we came in. Everyone was hurting."

At least the post-match inquest packed a punch. There were apologies from an embarrassed dressing-room; honesty and scathing self-analysis. It was worrying, though, to hear the winger Aiden McGeady suggest that the team had regressed and something fundamental had changed.

"A couple of years ago, we might have been able to get something out of this game," he said. "We played against Italy, France and teams like that [in Trapattoni's previous campaigns] and we always did OK. What's different? Possibly the way we play, I don't know … It's difficult to say but I just know there is a difference. Just look at the results. A couple of years ago, we were unbeaten in a good few games. We were playing some of the top teams and we were drawing or almost sneaking wins. Against Germany, we just got put to the sword.

"Maybe something has got to change in the way we play … possibly putting more onus on us having the ball, instead of playing for flick-ons and second balls. We changed to 4-3-3 against Germany but we never really had the ball and when we did, it was two, three passes and then going long. It doesn't really suit how that system is supposed to work."

The Faroe Islands are ranked 158th in the world and they tend to conjure images of bobble-hatted goalkeepers and part-time no-hopers. Yet their results have become tighter in the past few years and Sweden needed to come from behind to pip them 2-1 on Friday. Germany beat them 3-0 at home but Dietmar Hamann, the former Germany midfielder, said they put up more of a fight against his country than Ireland did. The fixture in Torshavn on Tuesday is fraught with peril for Trapattoni.

"It's probably more important than the Germany game," said the captain, Robbie Keane, who hopes to return from an achilles injury to play. "Everyone knew that Germany would be the runaway favourites. It's very hard to pick yourself back up after a defeat like that but we have to."