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German boom is good timing

AND there we were thinking the clever and efficient Germans had found a way to transform themselves from rugged athletes into footballing artists. Ask Dietmar Hamann and he will tell you it's just an accident of timing.

There has been an amount of soul-searching since Giovanni Trapattoni waved goodbye with a tear in his eye which he later bottled and saved for another similar occasion in the future.

The man made everyone doubt Ireland's ability to produce anything other than lungs and legs.

It wasn't as if we weren't already concerned about the future when Trapattoni took over. The production line has dried up across these islands and it's been a steady decline since the late 90s. But Hamann has a more sanguine view. He believes that these things are generational and that Germany's good fortune to possess a golden crop of lavishly talented players at the same time is as much about the integration of immigrant populations as it is about some grand meister plan dreamed up by the DFB.

"I think it's a generational thing. They have made changes and put more emphasis on technical ability. But if you look at the (German) U15s up to the U21s, they are not competitive," he says.

"So this was a generation where they won the 19s, 21s – these guys in their late 20s now.

"They had six, seven or eight top-class players in the same age group. You can't say, 'The Germans do this, so we must do it too', because in the 1990s the French had Clairefontaine and everyone said this was the way to go.

"They won the World Cup and we've not seen them since. Then the Germans came through – even though we haven't won a tournament – and they said this was the way to do it.

"If you go five years forward it might be Italy or Holland again or Ireland."

Hamann points to the flood of fresh blood pouring into Germany from Turkey and eastern European outposts as a rich source for this German squad.

"That's something that Ireland hasn't got. If you look at the German team now, you've Ozil, you've got Podolski, you've got Khedira, you've got a lot of players who are German first generation and this is something that the Irish or the English haven't got because in England the immigrants are Asians who play cricket, not football," he insists.

"I think people blame Ireland for trying to pinch players when there was maybe a great-great grand cousin in the family, but I think you've got to use it because the other nations do it as well."

And Hamann reckons that Belgium, hailed by many as the next big success story because of work done by the Belgian FA, has another source to thank for current form.

DIFFERENT

"Obviously Belgium is different because they brought a lot of Africans in and this is the only place where they got a work permit to play and some of them, Lukaku and Benteke, they're Africans who came to Belgium," he says.

Hamann is confident that an Ireland team inspired by Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will not capitulate in the way Trapattoni's team did on that awful 6-1 Aviva night.

"Well I was at the game that ended 6-1 and you can't get beat like this, regardless. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters playing an exhibition match. You've got to give the fans something; you've got to make a game of it, whether it's Brazil or Germany or Holland," says Dietmar.

"You can get beat and you can hold your hands up and say, 'Okay, you were better than us', or whatever, but there was no passion or desire, they were second best and there was no belief in the team.

"Roy Keane was a winner, he is a winner and so is Martin O'Neill. Is it enough to bridge the gap? I think Ireland will be better for it, because the negativity is gone and they can look forward now, so I think they have a great opportunity to finish second in their group."


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