By Sam Cage
DUBLIN, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Giovanni Trapattoni left his post as Ireland soccer manager on Wednesday following his side's World Cup qualifying defeats against Sweden and Austria in the past week.
The 74-year-old Italian, who had been in charge for more than five years and steered Ireland to the Euro 2012 championship, left by mutual consent, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said.
Ireland had been in contention to claim a playoff spot for next year's World Cup in Brazil but defeats in their last two Group C games has left them in fourth spot with two games left.
Trapattoni also took Ireland to the brink of the 2010 World Cup, missing out in a playoff after France scored a controversial winner set up by a Thierry Henry handball.
"We thank Giovanni Trapattoni, Marco Tardelli and Franco Rossi for the last five-and-a-half years during which we qualified for our first major tournament in 10 years and were close to qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after the play-off in France," FAI Chief Executive John Delaney said in a statement.
"This particular World Cup campaign has been disappointing but Giovanni leaves us with a group of good, young players which should form the basis of the squad that the new manager will use for the European Championship in France 2016 when 24 teams qualify."
Former Milan player Trapattoni was one of Ireland's highest-profile managers, having been in charge at some of Europe's biggest club sides including Juventus, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich as well as the Italian national side.
Trapattoni said he believed he had left Ireland in good shape for the challenges ahead.
"I would also want to thank all FAI staff members, including the backroom team and the players who have been great to work with during the last three campaigns," he said.
"I wish them well in the future and hope that the job we have done leaves everything in a good place for my successor to take over."
Bookmaker Paddy Power installed former Celtic and Sunderland coach Martin O'Neill as favourite to take over, followed by Brian McDermott of Leeds United and Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy.
Other names potentially in the frame include Norwich City's Chris Hughton and former Ireland and Manchester United captain Roy Keane.
Ireland have two World Cup qualifiers remaining in October, away to group leaders Germany and at home against Kazakhstan, though the focus will now shift to building a challenge for Euro 2016. (Addtional reporting by Martyn Herman in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)