Forde limits the damage as Germany book finals spot
Ireland’s defensive tactics no match for Joachim Löw’s side in Cologne
Mesut Özil of Germany scores his team’s third against Ireland in Cologne. Photograph: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
Germany’s Sami Khedira scores the first goal of the game via a deflection off Ireland defender Ciaran Clark in the World Cup qualifier in Cologne. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Germany 3 Republic of Ireland 0: Given the scale of last year’s home defeat and the turmoil that has followed since, Noel King and his players might secretly have settled for a scoreline like this before last night’s kick-off.
When Sami Khedira put the locals in front early on it promised to be so much worse and even after Andre Schürrle’s second just short of an hour in it seemed that the Germans might really push on.
As it is, the result will look respectable enough in the history books if last night’s winners have a big World Cup which seems entirely possible. Never mind then that the game was almost as one sided as the drubbing in Dublin.
The visitors might certainly have had a goal with Anthony Stokes enjoying a handful of chances, including one very late on when he was one on one with Manuel Neuer but fired straight at the goalkeeper.
From the resulting corner Ciaran Clark forced another save but within seconds the hosts had broken and Toni Kroos set up Mesut Özil for a goal that the Arsenal man put away almost nonchalantly.
Even after it, however, the Irish can scarcely complain given how many they might have conceded had it not been for a combination of desperate defending, fine goalkeeping from David Forde and, by the standards of the locals, pretty poor finishing.
King will hardly dwell on any of that when he reflects on his night in the limelight in years to come but he can count himself fortunate that there weren’t a few more goals because his efforts to stifle last night’s opponents with what was a surprising team selection and use of players had nothing like the desired effect; something that would have been picked over more had the locals run riot.
His decision to get an extra man into midfield clearly made sense but there were times when it seemed to make very little to the pattern of things. The hosts swept forward from the outset with Özil nominally leading a four-man attacking that also included Thomas Müller, Kroos and Schürrle but there was so much movement that it was difficult for the Irish to be sure where their next problem was coming from.
The plan was to get Glenn Whelan and Kevin Doyle, ostensibly either side of the three behind Anthony Stokes, to carry the burden of picking up the German full backs’ wide runs while the Irish back four remained tight on the edge of the own area, but both seemed to have been asked to contribute towards the centre as well and so kept seeming to get caught between two stools.
Doyle, in particular, struggled on the left with Philipp Lahm, who he consistently arrived late to close down and whose crosses he repeatedly failed to cut out. The result was a succession of scoring chances and one pretty decent looking penalty claim as Whelan ensured that Schürrle didn’t have the chance to meet a cross at the far post.
On the rare occasions King’s men found themselves in possession they clearly tried to pass it a bit, but shifting play out of their half proved a persistent problem.
That was the case when Bastian Schweinsteiger played the ball straight to Darron Gibson deep inside the Irish half, where the Everton midfielder kicked off a passing move that, in that area of the pitch, would have been almost unthinkable under Giovanni Trapattoni. The problem was that he, Séamus Coleman, Marc Wilson and Whelan couldn’t make any forward headway at all between them and so Forde was eventually required to help out.