It was confirmed on Thursday morning that Robbie Keane would miss the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with Germany at Aviva Stadium on Friday night (kick-off 7:45pm).
There are those who will look to the 32 year-old’s goal rate and state that he is Ireland’s most likely source of a goal against the three time world champions. Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni would certainly belong to that posse as the Italian regularly cites the Dubliner’s fantastic goal rate as why he always has (and likely always will) select Keane for international duty.
Against the Germans however, with the attacking quality they possess – particularly on the flanks – Trapattoni will have to revert to a 4-5-1 formation with Keane intended as the lone frontman (before his injury that is). Were this to come to pass on Friday night, it would have left the LA Galaxy man chasing shadows as he was the only other time Trapattoni abandoned his stereotypical rigid 4-4-2 system – against Spain in Gdansk over the summer. As we all know, Spain hammered Ireland 4-0 that day and Keane barely touched the ball.
For all of Keane’s many attributes, he does not possess the necessary pace or strength necessary to play up front on his own. At this stage of his career he is most suited to playing in the ‘hole’ between midfield and attack – the “Totti role” as Trapattoni calls it.
Trapattoni will now choose between Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox for the lone striking role, though it has been muted that a striker will play in what is expected to be a three man central midfield.
I would personally choose Long, his speed and strength is just what Ireland need as his powerful runs from inside his own box to the opposition box have illustrated for West Brom this season. Walters is probably the most physical of the three with Cox offering another option with his pace and trickery.
The most likely scenario is that Walters will start the game on the wing as he has done this season for Stoke with Long up top on his own.
At the back; Darren O’Dea and John O’Shea will form the central defensive partnership. The other two defensive slots will be fought out between Stephen Kelly, Paul McShane and Séamus Coleman. Kelly is a Trap favorite and will likely get the nod. Coleman should, in my view, be assigned the other berth at the back.
In midfield; Keith Andrews will return from suspension and he is likely to get the captain’s armband, while Keith Fahey is set for his biggest test in an Irish shirt – that is attempting to combat Mesut Ozil. James McCarthy will fill the other central midfield slot as Ireland have targeted that area as Germany’s strongest. Aiden McGeady and Jonathan Walters will man the flanks with Walters aiming to feed knockdowns and whatever other scraps are likely to come his way to Long up front.
Whilst the formation will ostensibly be 4-3-3; it is likely to morph into a 4-5-1 formation, such will be the amount of territory and possession that Germany are sure to enjoy.
POSSIBLE/PROBABLE IRISH STARTING XI -v- GERMANY: Westwood; Kelly, O’Dea, O’Shea, Coleman; McGeady, Fahey, Andrews (C), McCarthy, Walters; Long.
PREDICTION: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Germany