Ireland have played Germany 16 times and amazingly their record against them reads as 5 wins, 4 draws and 7 losses, not bad when you consider the pedigree of tonight’s opponents.
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We’ve only lost one of last three competitive games against them and our defeat was a narrow 1-0 loss, however following a poor Euro 2012 and a sluggish start to the qualifier’s expectations are low. So what we expect tonight when Ireland take to the field of play against a German side which has never lost a World Cup qualifier away from home?
Injuries have forced Trapattoni’s hand somewhat however the changes made, despite being enforced, should have a positive impact.
The absence of Sean St. Ledger and Richard Dunne, means that John O’Shea, primarily a right back under Trap has shifted into the centre alongside Darren O’Dea.
This means a first competitive start at right back for Seamus Coleman. The Everton man is good in the tackle, has pace, is hard working, has a good cross on him and most importantly he can defend. Sounds good but he is up against Marco Reus, the talented Dortmund winger, and this battle will be key to any Irish success. Reus can also play as a striker and has a preference to come inside, so Ireland and Westwood will need to ensure that he is not given the opportunity to cut and shoot.
Of course, he also has a decent cross on him and with Miroslav Klose’s magnetic ability to find the ball with his head waiting in the middle, a strong defensive workout awaits Coleman.
Speaking of Klose, his battle with O’Dea makes for an old school game of head tennis, remember that where you headed a ball for hours over a gate. This time there is no gate, although I’m sure Trap and Toronto man O’Dea wished there was. Both are big men, Klose is a veteran still playing at the highest level with Lazio in Italy, while former Celtic man O’Dea is a young lad playing already in the graveyard of the MLS. It’s a David v Goliath battle and oddly enough one I fancy O’Dea to win.
Of more concern will be the roaming Metsut Ozil who needs to be tracked by a combination of O’Shea and young James McCarthy and the danger here is that the Real Madrid man could find space in between both players. McCarthy is still to find out whether his best position is box to box, attacking or defensive midfielder and tonight it seems that he will be asked to cover the defensive duties normally carried out by Glenn Whelan. McCarthy is good in the tackle and has pace about him, many may recall the job he did on Steven Gerrard two seasons ago for Wigan when he harassed and harried the England man and a similar game tonight would be huge for the boys in green.
Another concern is the problem left back position where, for all his attacking qualities, Stephen Ward still struggles defensively. The Germans will be well aware of this and no doubt will aim to get the ball out to Thomas Muller as much as possible. Ward needs to get tight on the Munich man and an early statement of intent would set the stall out for a strong performance from the Wolves man.
With McGeady offering little in cover, Ward will be wary of drawing the left footed O’Dea out of position too much as that would leave Klose up against O’Shea.
In the middle of the field in front of McCarthy, you have the Keith’s of Fahey and Andrews. Fahey will bring composure and calmness to the field of play and his delivery from set pieces offers Ireland a real chance of a goal. Andrews meanwhile, judging by Poland, could the man to score that goal with his ability to ghost into the box and drive forward a real bonus for Trap.
Much like Ozil, positionally at least, Andrews will play off Walters and that partnership will be crucial, the hustle and bustle of Walters will be key. The Stoke man on his day is a handful and his ability to interchange with Cox on the right is a versatility which appeals to the Italian.
Ireland also have a hidden if somewhat unloved gem on the bench in the shape of Shane Long and the West Brom man will be hoping to make an impact from the bench. By this time it will hoped that Walters and Cox will have given Per Mertsaker a torrid evening paving the way for the pacey Tipperary man to fire home the final shot.
Trapattoni has a reputation for his tactical ability however should Ireland succeed tonight it will be more down to the unfortunate circumstances that have forced the Italians stubborn hand.
Davy Langan will be signing copies of his book, written with Trevor Keane, in the D4 hotel from 10.00pm after the match, CLICK HERE for full details.