Martin O’Neill draws inspiration from ‘great competition’ in Brazil
Republic of Ireland manager looking forward to playing World champions
German captain Philipp Lahm in action in the World Cup final. Martin O’Neill says Lahm’s move back into defence was key to Germany’s triumph. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images.
Ireland may not quite get to test that old theory about it being a good thing to catch World Cup winners off guard in their next competitive game. That dubious honour will be Scotland’s, but Martin O’Neill sounded like a man who could happily wait the extra few weeks after watching Germany sweep through the competition from his base in Brazil.
The Republic of Ireland boss had already suspected, of course, that Ireland’s Group D campaign might boil down to doing battle with the Poles and Scots (the latter yesterday confirmed that their game against Ireland on November 14th will be at Celtic Park) for second place but he has still been impressed with the way Joachim Löw and his men handled themselves here over the past month. The manager for the way he changed tactics and personnel mid tournament, the players for the way they raised their game when it became clear they would have to do so if they were not to come up short again.
“I think as the competition wore on they tightened up defensively,” he said. “(Philipp) Lahm went to right back although unwillingly – I think he sees himself as a midfield player – but they had to do that. They were holding a high line with maybe not the quickest defence at the time and I think they learned from that.
Found form“I think some of their good players also just found a bit of form. And I know they were handed some goals against Brazil but they were probably back to their best [in that game]. All the sides that have been involved this year have had deficiencies but it’s a matter of how you can cover them up. Certainly, in terms of a bit of energy, they looked good.”
All the better, he says, for Löw’s various interventions with the coach tinkering as his team progressed through the tournament amid calls for changes and criticism back home. Whether all of that influenced the coach, O’Neill admits, he simply can’t be sure.
“I think he thought ‘I’m going to upset some people but I have to do it to help the side,’ maybe (Per) Mertesacker had to be sacrificed and Lahm had to go in there but whether it was pressure from other quarters, I don’t know. But I actually think that has given them a bit of stability.”
The setting for October’s game will be rather different, he acknowledges. “This is under tournament rules here and things happen to you on a daily basis where you have to make these sorts of changes. But Germany are coming out of this tournament with their confidence intact. Playing Germany in Germany will be a totally different thing but, well, they’re not in decline anyway.”