Kevin Palmer: Ireland should dare to dream and believe we can topple the mighty Germans
Supporting the Republic of Ireland national team has long since become a pastime for eternal optimists, yet there are a few occasions when we should all dare to dream.
While it is virtually impossible to construct a credible argument to suggest a team ranked behind Cape Verde Islands and Congo have any chance against world champion Germany in Dublin, let’s imagine for a moment that logic need not play a part in Thursday night's Euro 2016 qualifier.
Let’s dream the impossible can happen.
Let’s dream we can get a result against Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, even if reality has had an annoying habit of reminding us that our beloved Boys in Green are no longer in the class of teams that we used to frighten the pants off back in what our parents call ‘the good ole days’.
Sadly, those halcyon days are not only lamented by our parents, as for the last two decades, Irish moments of glory on the international stages of world soccer have been few and far between.
So much so that some of the kids that will make the walk up to the lavishly reinvented Lansdowne Road stadium may not remember the last time Ireland recorded a victory of note against one of the game’s genuine heavyweights. Indeed, the Aviva Stadium has yet to witness one of those magical night that its predecessor on the same site specialised in staging.
You may have seen the hilarious video of a Chelsea fan (click here to view) who was clearly struggling to come to terms with his side’s recent slump on form. Here was a kid who has never witnessed his team failing on the scale we have seen in the opening weeks of the Premier League season and he simply couldn’t grasp the sensation that was overcoming him as he melted down on camera.
Well, he was vocalising Ireland’s problem in reverse. Most of us are struggling to remember the last time we had a team that could compete with the best and in truth, we seem as far away from reaching that point as ever despite the influence of current boss Martin O’Neill and his high profile side-kick Roy Keane.
A whole generation of Irish soccer lovers have only the recollections of their elders to fall back on when they try to envisage an Ireland team that had the quality and guile to trouble the best.
That oft-mentioned World Cup qualifying win against Louis van Gaal’s Holland in 2001 was a long time ago and there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer from Ireland in home international over the course of the 14 long years since.
Yet even if we know that not up to scratch at international level, O’Neill’s class of 2015 have scrambled to a position where an unlikely win against Germany or a battling point against Poland on Sunday may be enough to get us into a play-off game for a place in next summer’s expanded European Championship finals.
We may even be seeded if the qualifying campaign goes into overtime next month and having battled to an heroic draw against the Germans in Gelsenkirchen almost a year ago, let’s imagine a scenario that is not as grizzly as the last running of this fixture on Irish soil, when Joachim Low’s machine humiliated the home side with a 6-1 drubbing.
The good news must be that only three of the team that were on the receiving end of that massacre against the Germany are certain to play in this re-run, with Jonathan Walters, James McCarthy and John O’Shea all experienced enough to appreciate that the ghosts of that game four years ago has little relevance now.
O’Neill’s men have to focus on the here and now and like a journeyman boxer plucked out to square off against a rival expected to execute a swift knock-out, they have to believe they have a punchers chance of glory.
The players who will line up in green shirts need to dream before we can dare to do so as while not many stranger things have happened in football, Ireland could get a result against Germany. Come on, let’s dare to dream.
THE KEY POINTS
THE MAIN MAN – John O’Shea
If Ireland’s defence is going to withstand the barrage that is likely to come their way, then the vastly experience O’Shea needs to have one of his error free nights.
WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN – Ireland’s best hope of hurting Germany is in wide positions or from set-pieces. That means Robbie Brady needs to be at his best when it comes to delivery into the box and he also needs to try and be a threat down the flanks.
THE BIG DANGER – Germany could run riot in Dublin once again. Joachim Low’s side appear to be coming to the boil after a slow start to their Euro 2016 qualifying push and if they do thrash Ireland once again, it will be tough to reboot morale ahead of the trip to Poland on Sunday.
CAN IRELAND DO IT – Probably not, but the law of averages suggests we are due a famous victory against a top ranked team sooner rather than later. If it doesn’t come against the Germans, a stellar result out in Poland three days later may be more attainable.