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Irish road to Rio still looking rocky as Sweden and Austria show their class

AND so it came to pass.

A team under fire from their own media and fans on the back of a poor performance on a Friday then go away from home to face into a very tricky encounter, score four goals and come away with a very good result which gets their World Cup bid back on track.

Yes, Sweden did well last night.

Celebrations from the Ireland camp and Irish support after the 4-1 win in the Faroe Islands were muted slightly when, around 40 minutes after the final whistle blew in Torshavn sealing a much-needed win for Giovanni Trapattoni's side, came news from Berlin that the Scandinavians had somehow overturned a 4-0 deficit to grab a 4-4 draw against Germany.

Last night's football in Berlin, Vienna and Torshavn did serve to muddy the waters of World Cup qualifying group C a fair bit.

It now seems that a German side, which can lead 4-0 after an hour of play at home, can finish up with just a point and may not be the all-conquering leviathan that we all presumed after putting Ireland to the sword in Dublin last week.

And if Trapattoni thought that the headlines in the Irish papers since Friday night had been harsh, he should have stopped off in Germany today, en route from Dublin to Italy to spend time with his ill sister, and read up on what Bild and the German media think of (manager) Joachim Low today.



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The Germans did lose 3-1 at home to Argentina in a friendly last summer, but conceding four goals at home in a World Cup qualifier is, well, not very German.

Just as Klose, Reus and friends had the Irish press pack scouring the record books last Friday to find out how the 6-1 home defeat ranked in our history, the German media have been doing the same since the final whistle blew last night; the first time since England's 5-1 win in 2001, in the same stadium in Berlin, that the Germans have conceded four goals at home.

But the other lessons from last night offer little comfort to Ireland in our bid to win that runner-up spot (and let's not kid ourselves, Germany will win this group eventually).

The fact that Sweden can come back from a 4-0 deficit away from home -- in Berlin, not in Belarus or Bulgaria -- and get a draw should strike fear into Irish hearts in terms of what could happen when we face the Swedes in Stockholm in our next qualifier, in March.

Austria's 4-0 hammering of Kazakhstan in Vienna should also be a warning note to anyone who thinks that Ireland are on their way to Rio.

It should be pointed out that Kazakhstan had a weakened side in Austria last night due to injury and suspension (only six of the Kazakhstan side which did so well against Ireland started) but still, a 4-0 win for the Austrians is a decent win.

Over the last 13 years, Ireland have only once managed a home qualifying win by four goals or more -- against San Marino in 2006.

Bear in mind that under Trapattoni we have failed to win, at home or away, against teams who are of the same level as the Austrians.

We never came close to beating the likes of Italy, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Russia and Slovakia, at home or away, so no one can take for granted that we'll waltz past the men from Vienna in March.

And even more bad news for Ireland, if it's fair to call it that, is that the Swedes have no suspension worries ahead of their game at home to Ireland in March.

They went into last night's game in Berlin with three players on a yellow card -- including talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- but that trio managed to avoid a booking in Berlin (keeper Andreas Isaakson was booked, his first caution of the campaign).

Once the dust settles from last night's games, minds in Dublin (well Milan really, as that's where most of the thinking of this Ireland set-up is done), Berlin, Vienna and Stockholm will turn to the next games in March, which will have a massive bearing on the outcome of the group.

The fixture list suits Germany as they play Kazakhstan home and away in back-to-back games in March, the first of that double-header in Astana.

But if the Germans win both games they'll have 16 points on board by the time the June matches come around.

On the night when Ireland play in Sweden, Austria are at home to the Faroes, and seeing as that's a banker of a home win, that will leave the Swedes, the Austrians and the Irish all on something of an equal footing.

But the Swedes will certainly expect to win at home to Ireland on March 22.

That's the same Sweden side which has won its last four competitive home games.

The road to Rio still looks like a long one.


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