Ireland can be quietly confident heading into tomorrow night’s crunch clash with Germany, writes Conor Heffernan.
Germany is struggling and Joachim Loew knows it. The defeat to Poland confirmed a German weakness that Loew had hoped desperately was in the past. It haunted Germany during the initial stages of the World Cup and is rearing its ugly head once more.
Simply put, the Germans can’t score goals. It’s not a new problem either. Football’s first hint of the German weakness came during the last World Cup when Loew was forced to drastically overhaul German tactics in a bid to get Germany scoring. The result at the time was devastating.
Miroslav Klose gained more freedom on the pitch and helped Germany go on to win the Tournament. Germany were commended for their free flowing football, which saw them spank the hosts Brazil 7-1. It appeared for a time that the problem had been solved.
But football is a fickle game and German fortunes are not so rosy these days. Following the World Cup, Germany was hit with devastating news. Lahm, Klose and Mertesacker all retired from the international side. Lahm and Mertesacker were key players but Klose was the lynchpin. Having scored over 70 goals for the Germans, his retirement highlighted Germany’s reliance on Klose to score at key moments.
Talk of a new dawn in German football since the World Cup hasn’t materialised and matters haven’t improved with injuries coming to key players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil and Marco Reus.
Ireland will be heading into tomorrow night’s game against a German team in uncomfortable territory. Germany’s squad contains only one natural forward in Max Kruse and while newcomer Karim Bellarabi and the mercurial Mario Goetze have tried to fill the void left by Klose, the recent defeat against Poland showed the necessity for natural goalscorers.
The Germans know they’re in trouble. After the Poland match, a despondent Matt Hummels admitted to the press:
“We just failed to score and given the amount of chances we had it was a joke.”
A joke that Joachim Loew isn’t laughing at. The world’s best team are struggling to score goals.
Ireland on the other hand are coming into the game having scored nine goals in two games. For all of the faults with the Boys in Green, which are many, scoring goals is not one of them.
Robbie Keane may have gained the plaudits recently for becoming the highest goalscorer in European Qualification history but McClean, Hoolahan and McGeady have also notched up goals during this year’s qualifiers. In Ireland’s greatest ever start to a Qualifying Campaign, the Boys in Green are confident. There’s talk in the press of nicking a result against the Germans and many of the players are hoping to avenge the 6-1 defeat leveled out by the Germans in Dublin two years ago.
Now represents the best time for an Irish victory. The Germans are on the backfoot, they’re laughing off claims of a crisis in German football but the German weakness has been exposed once more. They cannot score goals.
So come on admit it, you’re confident about tomorrow’s match. How often have the Boys in Green gone into a game off the back of a 7-0 victory? Ireland are in fine form and will outscore the Germans tomorrow night. You heard it here first!
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.