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We have plan for Germans

WE DON'T NEED Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny to compare notes on their balance sheets to get an idea of how far ahead of us the Germans are.

Their national team are 26 places ahead of the Republic of Ireland in the FIFA rankings, one sign of their dominance, but another stat also hits home: while 25 players eligible for Germany appeared for their clubs in the Champions League last week, just one Irishman, Aiden McGeady, played in any of the group games in that competition or the Europa League.

We're not quite a team of stars. Of the likely starting XI for Ireland in tomorrow's game, only two players (John O'Shea and James McCarthy) are regulars in England's Premier League with three more (Aiden McGeady, Robbie Keane and Darren O'Dea) playing top-flight football, though not in England.

How different things were back in 2002, when the Irish side which faced Germany in the World Cup finals had 10 Premier League regulars (Gary Breen the odd man out) with four of that XI appearing in Europe that season.

Nottingham Forest man Simon Cox, as one of four Championship players likely to start against Germany, knows there's a difference in standard of clubs and leagues. Mind the gap, you might say.

Yet he feels that the Irish side, despite the diet of Champions League football being served up to their opponents, can step up. "You know their team. With someone like Germany you don't need to dig too deep to find out who their players are, they'll have people like (Mesut) Ozil and (Miroslav) Klose, world class players. Klose's record speak for itself and Ozil plays for Real Madrid so that says a lot," Cox told the Evening Herald. "It's not like you're coming up against players you've never heard of, you're playing against guys who are at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"You know what you get with Germany, it's a matter of putting a plan in place, sticking to it and hoping to get a positive result.

"I know we don't have as many players in the Champions League but what we do have is a very strong squad, with players who have a lot of experience and ability, so even though it's a big challenge to come up against someone like Ozil, I think we can deal with it," added Cox who left the Premier League last summer and moved down to the Championship with his move from West Brom to Forest.

That "plan" which Cox mentions is likely to mean a three-man central midfield with two wingers, one of whom is certain to be Aiden McGeady with the other wide slot up for grabs, Cox just ahead of Andy Keogh.

He told this newspaper last week that he wasn't happy with his own display as a wide man in Kazakhstan last month but Trapattoni remains a fan of Cox so the former Reading man could get a second chance.

At the start of the last campaign Ireland began with a win away to one of the former Soviet states (Armenia) and followed that up by winning at home in the next game (Andorra), but the schedule this time around -- Kazakhstan away, Germany home, Faroe Islands away -- is a lot tougher.

Yet Cox discounts the suggestion that Ireland's qualification bid will fall off the rails if Germany come away with a win. "I wouldn't agree with the theory that we'll be under massive pressure going to the Faroes if we do lose to Germany. The Germans will probably be the team which qualifies first from our group, they always do well in qualification, but we are going into the Germany match full of confidence after those two wins in a row, we have no reason not to," says Cox.

"In going to Kazakhstan the main aim was to win the game, no matter how we got the three points and while the performance could have been better, the win was the main thing.

"If we can get a positive result against Germany and then go to the Faroes and win, and win well, then we'll have had a great start to the campaign," added Cox.

The squad for tomorrow's game contains a batch of players yet to make their competitive debuts like David Meyler, Robbie Brady and Conor Clifford and Cox believes that competition is now intense. "You see the competition for places that we have. Someone like David Meyler did really well in the last game and didn't make the initial squad for this one, and you also have someone like Liam Lawrence, who's doing well in Greece and shouldn't be written off in terms of Ireland," he says.

"Just being in the squad is great. I thoroughly enjoy the international games. So when you get to play a part in a game, and maybe start a match, it's even better. Eighteen months ago it wasn't even in my head to be getting international caps so to have as many caps as I have is amazing for me."