‘It could be a long night for Ireland against Germany’
The Irish Times sports pages this morning leave the reader feeling anything but optimistic. We’re told that Ireland must pull something special out of the bag or else Germany will dismantle the Irish once more. Not the best accompaniment to your morning’s cereal and certainly not one for the soul.
We’re told that Ireland are underdogs, that something special will be needed to defeat the Germans or else it could be a long night ahead for fans of Irish football. This leaves the reader with only one thought. Why are the papers so serious? Football’s meant to be enjoyable isn’t it?
Other such as the Indo or the Herald are more cautious in their remarks. Rather than make a judgement on tonight’s game, they prefer to let the clichés from the Irish camp dominate the headlines. ‘The game is there for the taking’ and so on. It’s clear that the papers don’t hold out much hope for an Irish result tonight. What’s more, this attitude seems prevalent in many of the soccer forums this morning.
What happened to the days of unbridled optimism in Irish football?
The last time Ireland defeated Germany away came two decades ago this year and if we cast our eyes back to the Jackie Charlton era we find a different world in terms of reporting and optimism. There was an air of arrogance about Irish football that spread from the media right down to the Irish dressing room. Soccer pundits wrote about the Irish team’s capacity to shock the bigger nations, to break teams down and to always provide a threat.
Defeating the Germans in 1994, who were also World Champions back then, didn’t seem too tall an order. Gerry Thornley could write in 1994 of the Irish leaving the German ‘Champs as Chumps.’ Granted the Irish team back then contained a greater crop of players than the current squad, but the Irish are significantly stronger than they’re being credited with.
An on form John O’Shea has the potential to keep Germany at bay. The last two German matches have shown the frailty of Germany’s attacking options and the experienced Sunderland defender can be quietly confident of showcasing the German weakness once more. Germany are there for the taking.
Germany’s fullbacks are an obvious weak link yet Joachim Loew seems content with playing a high line. A combination that has the potential to be disastrous. Aiden McGeady has already proved himself a threat in this year’s Qualifiers, and has in the words of Martin O’Neill, the ‘X-factor’. McGeady will prove a constant menace for the German defence.
Finally, up front we have one of the most prolific goalscorers in international history in Robbie Keane. Granted he isn’t as fast as he once was but strikers like him never lose their threat.
Now let’s return to this morning’s papers. Rather than focus on the weaknesses of the German side, which both the Polish and Scottish games have highlighted, Irish papers have once more chosen the easy option of remaining silent or downplaying Irish chances. There’s a fine line between being realistic and being pessimistic.
It wasn’t realistic for Iceland to beat Holland last night, nor was it realistic to expect Poland to defeat Germany 2-0. Funnily enough, these upsets happened despite what the media wrote.
The purpose of this article is not to raise expectations beyond belief but to evaluate the role of Irish football reporting. The Irish team has its weaknesses, as do the Germans. Why can’t Ireland at least put up a fight? Stranger things have happened.
There’s enough talk in the press about why Ireland won’t win the match. Bring back the arrogance of the good old days. At least back then we knew football is meant to be fun.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena