Sport Soccer

Monday 20 January 2020

Manager's baffling team selection leaves us stuck with as many questions as answers

Steven Reid
Steven Reid

Steven Reid

NOEL KING opted to keep us guessing about his team until the last minute last night and he left us scratching our heads when we finally got to see it.

I have to admit, some of the selections left me baffled, in particular the decision to play Kevin Doyle on the left and Glenn Whelan on the right of a five-man midfield. It was hard to understand.

Both are fine players who have made big contributions for their country, but I thought King would have been better going with out-and-out wide men for the role.

Whelan has been an important player in midfield over the past number of years and for him to see none of the ball in a wide position was baffling. King obviously felt that Glenn could do a decent job defensively and provide the discipline in keeping Ireland's shape, but when you are defending for the majority of a game then you need an outlet.

Otherwise you will end up on the back foot and camped in your own half without the ball – exactly what happened for most of last night's game in Cologne.

Ireland knew they were up against one of the best teams in the world, that they were unlikely to have much of the ball and when they did get possession, they had no pace to counter-attack. It was a strange decision.

We knew Germany were going to outplay us, that they have far better players all over the park. It was always going to be difficult to get players on the ball, for players to shine.

We were playing a containing game, but as long as the game stays at 1-0 there is a chance and we saw that either side of half-time.

When you're playing against top class opponents away from home, you are not going to get too many opportunities and, when you do, you have to take them. Ireland didn't do that and got punished.

I must admit that when I saw Sami Khedira's shot deflect off Ciaran Clark and sail past David Forde, it took me back to Stuttgart in 2006 and Steve Staunton's first game. That night, Lukas Podolski's free kick came off the heel of Robbie Keane and that was the difference and Ireland were unfortunate that lightning struck twice.

Germany were excellent and could have been further ahead at the break, but despite not having any of the ball it was Ireland who had the better chances with Clark hitting the bar and Anthony Stokes fluffing his lines from the rebound, something he had done before Germany had opened the scoring when put through by a brilliant Darron Gibson pass.

It was a positive that the score was 1-0 and David Forde was the one Irish player to really enhance his reputation with a string of fine saves.

Damien Delaney did well in his first competitive start and despite all the possession, all the play from Germany; Stokes still had a couple of chances he might have done a bit better with.

The first two goals came from individual errors and Anthony and Stephen Kelly will have been disappointed with their lapses.

Stokes will know that there are positions of the park you have to keep hold of the ball and retain it.

When I started international level I learned quickly that it is so important to keep the ball. Last night was a big step up from Scottish Premier League where the striker plies his trade, you have to use the ball wisely and keep it when you have it because you will be punished.

I'm not sure the result could have been different with a change in personnel or with a different system.

I mentioned yesterday the way West Ham went about playing against Tottenham, they made sure they packed the midfield and didn't go chasing or hounding after the ball and if we had done that we would have been picked off, the spaces would have been exploited.

You can't fault the manager for the way they went about the game tactically, because if you chase them you can be picked off – we had to try and contain the Germans.

It was difficult circumstances for King, but it is an opportunity for the lads to show what they can do to a potential new manager and Tuesday is a bigger game for him and it will be important to get a result.

Now, we want to get this campaign out of the way and look forward to the new challenges ahead and once we get through Kazakhstan on Tuesday, we can forget about it quickly and move on.

Irish Independent

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