Soccer

Thursday 31 July 2014

Night of shame for pathetic Ireland

Ireland 1
Germany 6

Daniel McDonnell

Published 13/10/2012|05:00

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BRUTAL, in every sense of the word. The first full house for a football match in the Aviva Stadium only succeeded in showing a wider audience just how limited this Irish side really is.

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Many had left by the end, and it will be a struggle to attract them back without substantial change.

There is usually no shame in losing to the second best team in the world but Ireland managed to find it. After containing Germany for half an hour, the opener from Marco Reus energised white shirts and sapped the life from the natives. Trailing by two at the break, Giovanni Trapattoni switched back to two up front in a bid to retrieve something, and decimation followed.

Sadly, there is shame in suffering the worst home defeat in Irish football history. In the aftermath, he pointed to the absence of several key performers, but his loyalty to some of those who figured here provided the audience with a distracting talking point from the second-half horror.

With Faroe Islands giving Sweden a hard time earlier in the day, there will be apprehension in Abbotstown corridors ahead of Tuesday's qualifier in Torshavn.

After a fortuitous escape from Kazakhstan, Trapattoni is running out of lives. He grew animated when asked if he would consider walking away.

"I am proud about this team," he said, arguing that he was picking the best options available. "And last month, in Kazakhstan, we showed spirit."

dreadful

The performance was dreadful, though, and there were hopes that a change in system would lead to better passing from an Irish side, but the Germans were so comfortable in that department that this was like Euro 2012 all over again, only with better Irish cover in the early exchanges.

Trapattoni sent his players out with the intention of initially pressing high up the park and they succeeded, to a degree, in the opening quarter hour. Quickly though, the emphasis changed from pressing to tracking as Joachim Loew's men grabbed possession.

Lone front man Jon Walters was central to the bright start. His physicality and ability to threaten the Germans in the air makes it all the more remarkable that management were initially preparing to use Robbie Keane in this role.

The Stoke man teed up Keith Andrews for an errant shot with one flick, although his final ball might have been better shortly afterwards when an elongated one-two with McGeady was cut out by the visitors.

When Germany found their stride, though, Walters was defending from the front. The movement of Joachim Loew's men tested Ireland's commitment to their shape with full-backs

Jerome Boateng and Marcel Schmelzer effectively functioning as additional wingers. It meant that Ireland's 4-3-3 became a 4-5-1 with Aiden McGeady and Simon Cox camped in their own half. They didn't look very comfortable going backwards.

While Keith Fahey concentrated on keeping Mezut Ozil in his sights, the willingness of the white shirted attacking wingers, Marco Reus and Thomas Muller, to drift infield throughout left the Irish full-backs in a bind.

It came as no surprise that the deadlock breaker arose from the flexibility of Loew's wide boys, although Ireland were fortunate not to already be one down courtesy of a howler from stand-in skipper John O'Shea. With the Germans pushing up, O'Shea found himself running into a cul de sac on the edge of his box, and the razor sharp Reus nipped in to poke the ball away before going down. Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli raced in with purpose, and awarded the Dortmund star a yellow card for diving. Replays suggested it was the wrong call.

Irish relief was short-lived. Bastian Schweinsteiger's delectable flick into the danger zone caught McGeady napping with Schmelzer collecting the accurate pass and poking the ball across the area under pressure from the covering Seamus Coleman. It fell perfectly for Reus, who showed predatory instincts to gather and finish before an Irish defender could react to stop him.

Keiren Westwood had no chance, and five minutes before the break, the Sunderland stopper found himself picking the ball out of the net again. Unfortunately, it came in the aftermath of Coleman's first genuine foray into opposition territory. It broke down, and the Germans swiftly reacted. A classic counter inspired by Schweinsteiger and Ozil culminated with the marauding Boateng presenting Reus with a shooting opportunity that he gratefully accepted. With deadly accuracy, the bottom corner was located.

Game over.

Five minutes into the second half, Trapattoni sent Shane Long into the fray, essentially reverting to a 4-4-2 with the West Brom man asked to help the midfield.

It was a losing battle, though, and Germany sniffed blood. Yet the genesis of the third goal was a horrendous challenge from Darren O'Dea. He is toiling in the MLS with awful Toronto and he showed desperate judgment to fell Miroslav Klose with a needless challenge. Keith Andrews told him as much as Rizzoli pointed to the spot. Ozil converted with a swagger.

On the bench, Premier League regulars Marc Wilson and Ciaran Clark were entitled to shake their head.

O'Dea was implicated in the fourth, as the veteran Klose pulled off his shoulder to collect a through ball, before cleverly rounding Westwood and finding the empty net, although a faster centre-half might have got there in time.

Mercy

The Germans showed no mercy and looked for more. With Irish bodies running into each other outside the box, half-time substitute Toni Kroos displayed perfect technique to unleash a left footer that arrowed into the net beyond an increasingly frustrated Westwood.

After knocking in five in a half-hour spell, the top seeds desisted for a bit, instead engaging in a bout of keep-ball that entertained their followers. Kroos eventually broke it up by darting into space and smashing home with his right boot.

Trapattoni, who had earlier introduced Andy Keogh, then sent Robbie Brady into the fray. Six goals down? Hardly the ideal way to make a home debut.

The Manchester United youth made his mark, though, delivering the injury-time corner that Keogh dispatched with a neat header. It provided those who remained with brief cheer but the final whistle was met with boos. This time, there was no Fields Of Athenry.

Irish Independent

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