Germany simply in a different league despite Ireland’s best efforts
Noel King’s line-up battled valliantly but gulf in class was always likely to tell
There was so clearly a defensive game plan put in place by Noel King’s Republic of Ireland. It didn’t work but not many plans will work against this German side.
Neither Jose Mourinho nor Alex Ferguson or anyone else would have been able to bridge last night’s gulf in class. We tried to keep a tight 4-5-1 formation and hope that eventually Anthony Stokes would expose the space Germany leave between their defence and midfielders.
We really should have scored, especially from that Anthony Stokes chance before half-time after Clark hit the bar and also late on. But we did just fine. There was an argument to use a few more creative players but Noel got his tactics right.
He had a plan to get in behind the Germans. I haven’t seen us create so many chances against a top team for a long time. I think he can be proud of his efforts.
The tactics weren’t too different from how Giovanni Trapattoni would’ve sent his Irish team out. The difference was in personnel. We have more options now. And Lord knows we needed Stokes, Darron Gibson, Kevin Doyle and even Damien Delaney back in the mix.
It suited us that Germany didn’t have a focal point up front. That meant it was going to take something special or, in the case of Sami Khedira’s goal, something lucky to beat the excellent David Forde.
That’s what happened for goal number two. A quick short corner and subtle pass by Toni Kroos for André Schürrle to slip it into the net.
Still, I was surprised we were only one-nil down at half-time. And from the cruellest of deflections off Ciaran Clark.
I’ve rarely seen a game when we’ve had so little possession, even at the start of the Trapattoni regime when he played with four in midfield. The Germans completely dominated for long periods, toying with us really.
Germany are a superb football team and have another gear or two. And still, we definitely should have scored once or twice.
I have to wonder about the logic behind playing Glenn Whelan on the right. But there was logic. Aiden McGeady and James McClean are not defensively minded enough and the idea was to bring some experience and a shield for the defence on that side. It was also to allow Seamus Coleman the opportunity to attack, which he did in the second half.
Glenn had a good game. He got in decent tackles and a few contributions to the counter attack. So what initially looked like a risky selection paid off for Noel.
James McCarthy didn’t look out of place going up against the brilliant German midfielders. He worked like a man possessed. But McCarthy was the only player pressing them early on. They were under zero pressure when on the ball. We stood off them which is so very un-Irish.
Marc Wilson is a decent enough defender but he is too one-sided a player to make any impact as a midfielder. He is too predictable. I saw something similar watching him play for Stoke. He struggles to switch the play under pressure and that’s an essential trait for any midfielder.
Darron Gibson is a completely different player. Give him the ball and he’ll run you the game. But that was never going to happen last night. It needs to on Tuesday.
Gibson’s set piece move before half-time almost caught Manuel Neuer out. Not that I think it was a pre-planned free kick. He seemed to see the opportunity and hit it to the far post. It was a good ball and Ciaran Clark did well to get a header on it.
Anthony Stokes should’ve scored from the rebound but fluffed the attempted volley. You don’t get another goal chance like that against Germany. Well, actually, he did but Neuer brilliantly saved it.
Our set piece looks like a brand new weapon with Gibson picking out Clark, Kevin Doyle and Damien Delaney.
Germany have so many good players, so much power, and are so impressive.Schürrle was their best performer on the night. Close attention was given to Ozil and others but the Chelsea man was a nightmare to contain.
His second goal made for a very difficult last half hour.
But there was plenty of long term Irish prospects out there. Like Clark. I think he can become the bedrock of our defence for many, many years. He is still learning his trade as an international centre half. This was an important experience for him. Same goes for Coleman.
In the end it became a race between Ireland’s waning energy levels and the Germans desire to press for a third goal. We were just hanging in as they achieved qualification. They are good enough to win next summer’s tournament.
Now, back to us. Against Kazakhstan we must go out to play and create. Not contain. That means a place should be found for Andy Reid, McClean, McGeady or Wes Hoolahan. Maybe two of them. Robbie Keane might be back too. Then we can start planning for the future.