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Marco Tardelli has insisted Giovanni Trapattoni would happily extend his stay as Republic of Ireland boss if given the opportunity.
The 74-year-old Italian woke on Sunday morning to newspaper headlines speculating over his successor - former Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill is the bookmakers' favourite - in the wake of Friday night's World Cup qualifier defeat by Sweden, which left Ireland's hopes of making it to Brazil next summer hanging by a thread.
Trapattoni's current deal is due to expire at the end of the campaign and after a turbulent 11 months, there is little appetite to retain the services of a man whose methods and dwindling results have attracted vociferous criticism.
However, assistant manager Tardelli launched a staunch defence of a man who claimed in the aftermath of Friday night's game that he and his coaches had done a "very, very great job".
He said: "One year ago, the people who are criticising Giovanni now were very happy with Giovanni.
"Football is so. We haven't a problem because we understand that our job has been very strong. For me, it is very positive."
Tardelli is hugely protective of a manager under whom he played at Juventus and often attends Trapattoni's post-match press conferences, frequently interjecting over questions to which he objects.
Asked if the tide of criticism which has engulfed his mentor in the last 48 hours angered him, he replied: "I played for many years and I have been a coach for many years and for me, everything now is nothing because I know our job, I know your job.
"You need to ask very hard questions for the newspapers and for the TV. It's normal, it's life. No problem.
"We came here nearly six years ago and now, we feel very well also for another two years.
"But I don't know if that will happen or not. The FAI (Football Association of Ireland) know what they will do."
Trapattoni, Tardelli and their players flew out to Vienna on Sunday afternoon still hoping they can resurrect their World Cup dream.
However, they did so with the nation having all but accepted that the green jerseys which added such colour to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland will not be seen in Brazil.
Many of those who packed into the Aviva Stadium for the Sweden game made their feelings abundantly clear as the final whistle brought an end to a damaging 2-1 defeat.
However, Tardelli said: "The team plays to win always - sometimes it happens, sometimes not.
"The Irish fans must be very proud of this team because when this team is on the pitch, they try to do their best."
For their part, the management team has not given up hope and Tardelli was adamant that the players have not either.
He said: "Why not? Why not? The players are very proud to play for the Irish team and we need to go to Austria and win. That's normal for a good team and we are a good team.
"I was a player many years ago and whether I played against Cameroon or against Brazil, I hoped always. It's the same here.
"I think it's possible to win against Austria and we will do everything we can."
Ireland will have to perform significantly better than they did against the Swedes for all but the opening half-hour if they are to return with the points and an outside chance of snatching second place in Group C.
Trapattoni will be forced to make at least one change - midfielder Glenn Whelan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury - but the prospect of an all-out assault seems remote.
Asked if the Republic needed to adopt a more attacking approach at the Ernst Happel Stadion after failing to create a single chance of note in the second half against Sweden, Tardelli said: "More?
"We played against Sweden with three strikers - (Jon) Walters, Robbie Keane and Shane Long - and (James) McClean is not a defensive player.
"I think three strikers is enough for any team."