Giovanni Trapattoni need only ask Graham Taylor about the perils of losing to Sweden, after the former England manager was famously vilified by the English tabloid press as a turnip in the wake of England’s 2-1 defeat to the Swedes at Euro 1992.
A similar fate could await the Republic of Ireland boss after events at the Friends Arena on Friday night. Defeat would leave Ireland four points adrift of Sweden and their World Cup hopes, as well as the Italian’s future, hanging by a thread.
Not because defeat on Swedish soil would be any disgrace, far from it in fact, but because the knives have been out for Trapattoni ever since the humiliating debacle of Euro 2012. Defeat in Sweden, followed by a poor result at the Aviva Stadium against Austria could hasten the end.
While Ireland have stumbled and laboured through this campaign so far, as well as being ruthlessly outclassed by Germany 6-1, Sweden pulled off a sensational 4-4 draw in Germany and will sense that they can take a firm grip on second spot on Friday night.
“So there’s real pressure on the players going into the game,” said Cunningham. “Even if we lose to Sweden mathematically we can still gain second place in the group, but everybody realises the defeat would make it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to quality.”
For more see the March 23 edition of the Irish World