Wednesday 20 November 2019

'Ireland have to make it physical and rough them up to get a result'

John Hynes

AN underwhelming European Championships that concluded with defeat by Italy. A lackadaisical 2-1 away victory in their last qualifier for the 2014 World Cup. Criticism of the manager and a sense of disillusion around the team.

The details of the script may sound depressingly familiar to Irish soccer supporters. Yet Didi Hamann is discussing the visitors to Lansdowne Road a fortnight tomorrow.

"For the first time, Joachim Loew (pictured) got some stick after the Euros," the former German international says. "At the last four major tournaments they have been to at least the semi-finals. And in Euro 2008 they lost in the final.

"Obviously that's not a bad record but on each occasion they didn't complete the job. The fans are starting to lose patience."

With that in the background, Hamann feels his compatriots won't be relishing their trip to Dublin. "They'll know they are in for a real game," he says. "Any time Germany travel to the UK or Ireland it's very difficult. This will be no different.

"It might sound old-fashioned but Ireland have to make it physical and rough them up. That's how they can get a result. If they try to outpass them it won't work because not many countries are capable of doing that."

Giovanni Trapattoni is a coach that Hamann knows well, the pair having worked together during the former Liverpool man's days at Bayern Munich.

"I was young and he taught me a lot," Hamann says. "He was a big influence in my career and I'll always have the utmost respect for him."

Despite that appreciation for his former mentor, he can see why dissatisfaction towards him among the Irish public is growing.

"His loyalty to certain players is becoming a problem. I felt the last game of the Euros was maybe the time to give others a chance. You have to look at the bigger picture and get fresh players involved."

Hamann's thoughts are similar to the majority of Irish supporters who will be keenly watching the Group C action on October 12. "He's got some players there such as Shane Long and Kevin Doyle who play, or have played, in the Premier League on a regular basis. Darron Gibson is another one. I know he's currently injured but he's had a major impact at Everton since he joined. He's a regular in their side.

"Then there's James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and James McClean. I'm very surprised that some of those players haven't featured in the Ireland team more often."

Gibson is currently sidelined due to a thigh problem. Prior to that he withdrew from the last squad, citing his failure to overcome the disappointment of being an unused sub for all three defeats at Euro 2012.

Hamann thinks the midfielder's decision and McClean's recent post-Kazakhstan Twitter rant aren't conducive to good team spirit.

"To me, that type of stuff illustrates the mood isn't what it should be. It's hard enough for a small country like Ireland anyway but it's even more difficult if everybody is not together."

During his 59 international appearances Hamann witnessed plenty of established names depart from the game at that level. When those figures leave, the voids can be difficult to fill.

Shay Given and Damien Duff recently concluded their international careers with 125 and -- despite what FIFA say -- 100 caps respectively.


"Those guys have been stalwarts," Hamann rightly points out. "Along with Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane, they've helped to carry the side for a long time. Robbie and Richard are getting older now and will probably retire in the next few years too.

"When players leave, it's disappointing. However, it's inevitable and understandable. It should mean there are more opportunities for those I mentioned earlier.

"Fans might need to be patient when new players come in, but they usually are if they see the manager is trying to change things. It's when they don't see attempts to change that they become annoyed."

Voices of dissent would have been even louder had Keane and Doyle's late goals, allied with good fortune, not cancelled out Kairat Nurdauletov's opener and given Ireland three points in the Astana Arena last month.

Hamann thinks the positive result of the September 7 outing on a plastic pitch should be the main focus.

"Thanks to that win the qualification campaign is up and running. The performance (against Kazakhstan) was fairly average. But they came away with a great result. Going to any former Soviet state is never easy. So if you get a victory you have to be happy.

"It gives Ireland something to build on and means they should go into the Germany game with some confidence. Even a draw from this fixture would be a good outcome. That would really give them some momentum."

Irish Independent

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