German head coach Joachim Loew stated at Thursday’s eve of match press conference that he expects Ireland’s fans to “act like a 12th man” and for the atmosphere at Lansdowne Road’s AVIVA Stadium to be “electric” on Friday night.
For Ireland to go into such a big game, against such vaunted opponents without so many leading lights, would be funny were it not likely to lead to a game which Ireland are almost certain to play almost entirely on the back foot.
For the first time in precisely 15 years (that the 1998 World Cup qualifier against Romania in Dublin on 11th October 1997); the Republic face a competitive game without the services of any of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane and this against a country who less than a handful of nations at full strength could compete with for a full 90 minutes.
Friday night’s opposition is particularly poignant as it was against the Germans that Given, Duff and Keane enjoyed arguably their finest hour in an Irish shirt (though Dunne failed to come off the bench) as Keane netted an added time equaliser against Rudi Voller’s men to help send the Boys in Green to the knockout stages of the 2002 World Cup, with the Germans eventually reaching the final of that tournament ten summers ago.
If Friday night isn’t the end of an era for that generation of Irish players (who have amassed a total of 422 caps between the four of them), then its certainly a preparation for the end, with Duff and Given already having recently called time on their international careers of course.
The three time world champions are without star names of their own, such as Lahm, Hummels and Bender but the German talent pool extends far, far deeper than that of the Boys in Greeen – or indeed that of almost any nation in the world. The fact that Loew can leave out the marvelous Mario Götze (a player labelled by Franz Beckenbeaur as “ingenious”) says everything about the depth of this German squad.
When asked if Friday night’s game was a clash of class against effort, Loew maintained: “Well, I think we mustn’t fall into that trap, because I believe the Irish team will never accept they are beaten at any point. For the full 90 minutes, Ireland will go for goal and maybe for victory.
“We have to find our own style and express ourselves as a compact unit whilst trying to counter the Irish game, which is very, very fast, with long balls played quickly from back to front, so we need to control the tempo.”
This observer expects Germany to do just that (i.e. control the tempo) and Die Mannschaft will likely be a couple of goals to the good at the AVIVA before the hour mark, at which stage Loew will likely empty his bench, take the foot off the pedal and turn the German focus to next Tuesday’s game against Sweden in Berlin. For the Germans, it’s never personal, they have no desire to humiliate Ireland. They win (they have never lost a World Cup qualifier away from home) and move on to the next challenge whilst expending as little energy as necessary in advance of that next challenge.
PREDICTION: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Germany