World Cup 2014 qualifying: Injury ravaged Ireland face Germany in crunch Dublin qualifier
Three time World Cup winners Germany travel to Dublin on Friday to take on a depleted Irish side for a Group-C encounter at the Aviva Stadium. Giovanni Trapattoni must motivate his side to put up a valiant show against the mighty Germans in front of a passionate Irish support to get something out of this daunting clash. Although Joachim Loew’s side have failed to win a major tournament since 1996, yet the young Die Mannschaft look the best bet to end Spain’s reign as World Champions in Brazil in twenty months’ time.
UEFA Group C information
Germany – Played 2 Won 2 Points 6
Sweden – Played 1 Won 1 Points 3
Rep. of Ireland – Played 1 Won 1 Points 3
Austria – Played 1 Won 0 Loss 1 Points 0
Kazakhstan – Played 2 Won 0 Loss 2 Points 0
Faroe Islands – Played 1 Won 0 Loss 1 Points 0
Germany have two wins out of two and having qualified for Euro 2012 with a 100% record, they would like to continue that way as long as possible. Although Joachim Loew’s boys are still to prove that they have big match potential just like their predecessors in the nineties, Philip Lahm and company would aim to win the World Cup in Brazil and win their first international silverware since Euro 96.
The Euro 2012 semi-final loss against eternal nemesis Italy last summer has proved that Germany would have to develop the right temperament to see off the bigger challenges in high profile tournaments as third place finishes, runners-up spot are just not enough for a football nation like Germany. Since the Mario Balotelli inspired 2-1 loss to Italy, Germany have lost against Argentina in an August friendly and looked below par in the qualifying wins over Faroe Islands and neighbours Austria. Joachim Loew knows that the games against Ireland and Sweden over the next few days would give credible information about how the group would look like at the end of the campaign, although there will be plenty of football still left to be played. By no means Ireland are to be taken for granted as far as Die Mannschaft are even concerned with the injury problems surrounding Irish football as a dangerous Sweden await them in close quarters.
The Republic of Ireland would draw inspiration from the famous result that the Boys in Green achieved against the same opposition a decade ago when a late Robbie Keane equaliser salvaged a deserved point in the 2002 World Cup group game, which kept Irish hopes alive in the tournament, and the great fightback against a developing German team inspired Mick McCarthy’s side to qualify for the latter stages, only to be beaten by Spain on penalties in a memorable Irish World Cup campaign.
But a lot of time has passed since then with Germany going on to finish third in the last two World Cup editions in addition to being runners-up to Brazil in 2002. They have become a solid football force to reckon with after a fair few years of turmoil since the Euro 96 success while Ireland qualified for Poland and the Ukraine this summer, their first appearance in a major final since 2002. A hopeful nation then watched in dismay as Spain, Italy and Croatia roll over Trapattoni and his men as the Republic return home as one of the two teams without a single point in group stage. While the 73-year old Trapattoni has been persevered to take Ireland forward, the new season has seen Ireland start with a goal-less draw in Serbia and earning an undeserved come-from-behind win over Kazakhstan in the opening and only qualifier so far. They rounded off their September’s quota of internationals with a 4-1 friendly win over Oman at Craven Cottage in London. Decent form some might argue, but the quality of opponents is equally debatable.
Philipp Lahm is suspended while Lars Bender and the spirited Mats Hummels are injured for the Ireland game and that could unsettle the German back four considering the physical approach that Ireland would inevitably employ to rattle the away side. Even though Ireland themselves are trying desperately to counter the shortage of manpower due to injuries, the latest being that to captain and talisman Robbie Keane due an Achilles problem, Joachim Low can expect a tough outing on Friday evening. While Bastian Schweinsteiger has returned to the national fold after being rested in the games against the Faroe Islands and Austria, all eyes will be on the German strategy that includes just one all-out forward in the form of Miroslav Klose. Lukas Podolski has started his new life at Arsenal in impressive fashion but would need to up his international form to raise the German faithful’s confidence.
Likely starting eleven
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Defense: Jerome Boateng, Mercel Schmelzer/Benedikt Howedes, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstber
Midfield: Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos/Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus
Forward: Miroslav Klose
There will be no shortage of passion and energy as far as the Irish are concerned but Giovanni Trapattoni and his deputy Marco Tradelli are struggling to put out a proper team with injuries to first choice strikers Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle, central defenders Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger and midfielders Glenn Whelan and James McClean. The starting line up is still sketchy as Trapattoni is pondering on the number of fit players he has in his range although John O’Shea and Darren O’Dea are sure to partner each other in central defense. Jonathan Walters should start alone up front although in-form West Bromwich Albion man Shane Long might be a better choice to lead the attack against a tough yet vulnerable Germany side.
Likely starting eleven (subject to change according to the injury list)
Goalkeeper: Kieran Westwood
Defense: John O’Shea, Darren O’Dea, Stephen Kelly, Seamus Coleman/Paul McShane
Midfield: Aiden McGeady, Keith Fahey, Keith Andrews, James McCarthy, Simon Cox
Forward: Jonathan Walters/Shane Long
Head to Head
Whenever these two sides have met, things had been close and even. As German midfielder Toni Kroos would say, “The Irish are good fighters. We have to hold our own.” Ireland would come hard at the visiting Germans but the experience and pedigree of the three time world champions is sure to come fore into this match and Jochim Low’s side might just have enough to comfortably see this game through and prepare in earnest for Tuesday’s clash against Sweden in Berlin. With all the gap that exist between the two sides’ talent pool, surprisingly, the head-to-head record reads played 15, with Germany winning 7 and losing 5 while there has been four draws. So fans should expect a hard-core physical tussle rather than a skillful, technical game although the Die Mannschaft would be keen to keep more of the possession by keeping the ball on the ground where the skills of the likes of Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Marco Reus would come into play.
A draw cannot be ruled out but Germany are odds on favourites to win the match by a comfortable margin.
Live Telecast on Sony Six at 00.15 A.M IST on Saturday October 13.