Mark Kinsella: Ireland can pull off a shock
Former star insists anything is possible with hard work, but warns Trap's men to beware German pace on counter
Mark Kinsella doesn't pause before delivering a two-word response to the question that every Irish fan will be asking this week.
How do you get a result against a superior team like Germany?
"Hard work," he replies, instantaneously, and he is speaking from personal experience. He finds it hard to believe that it's over 10 years since the glorious World Cup night in Ibaraki, when Robbie Keane's last-gasp equaliser stunned a German team that went on to reach the final.
Kinsella was 29 then, a latecomer to international football who cannot reflect on his time in the green jersey without extolling the virtues of the experienced heads around him.
He mentions Niall Quinn and Steve Staunton before referencing the man whose shadow loomed over that tournament.
"I played 48 times for Ireland, and I think 28 of those caps came playing next to Roy Keane," he reflects. "There was no better player to learn from, to give you praise when you need it, and the opposite when necessary. Having people like that around the place lifts you."
This is why he is fearful for Friday. In the 10 years since Japan and Korea, the Germans have overhauled their system to produce an even better quality of player than they possessed in that Asian adventure.
Ireland, by contrast, are devoid of leaders in the Keane mould. With Shay Given and Damien Duff retiring, and Richard Dunne injured, there is a shortage of experience in vital areas.
Kinsella has sympathy for those who must try to fill that void, just like he feels sorry for some of the stick that fellow midfielders Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews have taken during their international careers.
If they had taken their baby steps alongside the aforementioned Corkman, Kinsella reckons they would be viewed differently.
"Some of these lads have to do it on their own," he stresses. "It's different when you have someone there like Roy to guide you through.
"They've had to make mistakes, get punished, and then gradually get better. I know there are still some strong characters there. I know Richard Dunne is, but he's been injured.
"The core of the success in the past we have had with Ireland has been built on some big characters, whereas a lot of these lads have had to learn
on the job."
Still, he's not ruling out a shock at the Aviva. Kinsella will never be surprised by anything that happens in football. His own circumstances at the moment illustrate that point. He's back at Colchester, the club where he served his apprenticeship after leaving home as a teenager.
After seven happy years, he moved on to the next stage of his playing career at Charlton, a switch which paved the way for international recognition.
When Colchester, who now operate in League One, appointed Dubliner Joe Dunne as their new manager a fortnight ago, he called in Kinsella as his assistant. They inherited a dressing-room which includes another 2002 squad member, Clinton Morrison.
In a division where other teams operate with far greater budgets, the right attitude is essential. And this is where we return to the original message for Giovanni Trapattoni's players in the build-up to the marquee game of the campaign.
"You're probably not going to see a lot of the ball," Kinsella says. "And on paper, it's an away win. But a lot of times we're at our best when we go in as underdogs and, listen, we're at home. We've always had a decent record there.
"With hard work, it is possible. Back in 2002, we scored late, when it should have been a comfortable draw. We had an edgy start, and conceded early, but it didn't knock us back.
"We played very well with the ball -- that was the main thing. When you don't have the ball, work hard, don't let them cut you open. When you have it, make sure you have an end product.
"And remember, even when you're attacking, always be defending. Germany are quick, they have the quality to catch us on the break."
Kinsella will be in Dublin this Sunday for a meeting with some old pals who, perhaps, will be moving a yard or two slower than they used to.
It's a good cause, a charity match for the ISPCC that will pit an Irish legends team including Kinsella, Packie Bonner, Niall Quinn, Kevin Kilbane and Jason McAteer against a supporters team selected by the website ybig.ie that will be boosted by the services of Meath GAA legend Graham Geraghty.
"It's a good cause," says Kinsella. "And a good chance to catch up with the lads and have a laugh."
In an ideal world, they'll have a good result 48 hours earlier to smile about.
The Irish Legends v Ireland Supporters match takes place in Tolka Park, this Sunday at 2.0. It is being organised by Football for Charity and proceeds will go towards the ISPCC, Aoibheann's Pink Tie and Hand in Hand (West).
Tickets available from ISPCC, Shelbourne FC and Casa Rebelde in Temple Bar, or pay at the gate on the day. Adults €10, Children €5 and VIP tickets €50 (meeting players before and after).