Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Too Easily Hurt

Ireland 1.

Germany 6.

The type of score line the Vidiprinter had to write in brackets to confirm it wasn’t a mistake.

Ireland 1.

Germany 6 (Six).

That hurt.

That really hurt.

No matter what way you look at it.

Even if the team was severely depleted.

Missing the big four of Shay, Richard, Damien and Robbie was always going to be tough to cope with.

Not to mention the withdrawals of James McClean, Sean St. Ledger, Glen Whelan, Darron Gibson and Kevin Doyle.

That’s nine players who would have all felt they could start had Giovanni been able to choose from a fully fit squad.

But that hurt.

It still hurt knowing that goal difference actually counts for little in this group.

And defeat to Germany was mathematically at least, just 3 points dropped against the team everybody expects to win the group.

It was unlikely we were ever going to challenge Germany for top spot anyway.

So the result for once, actually does sound worse than it is.

That still hurt.

But it also hurt to think that we have a world class manager and this was the best he could do.

I always felt Giovanni might have a problem utilising the players at his disposal.

He was extremely successful when the players executing his orders were Totti, Brady or Mattheus.

With Ireland he has only ever been able to call on players from the lower half of the Premier League and beyond.

Not World Players of the year like before.

Instead, hard grafters and honest professionals.

Gifted to a certain extent but not in the same league as Michel Platini for instance.

Giovanni was able to build successful team after successful team around some of the world’s greats.

Now he must rely on players from L.A. Galaxy, West Bromich Albion or Stoke City to form his focal point.

Meaning Irish players are extremely restricted when it comes to world class talent.

And this was never more evident then when faced against a giant like Germany.

But it is Giovanni’s job to make sure these players play above themselves.

Give more than they are capable of as a team than they are as individual parts.

Yet even lowly Premier League players have more than what we saw on Friday night.

Championship players too.

Even Toronto FC.

But none of this was evident at the Aviva.

And it hurt.

Teams like that shouldn’t lose so heavily.

But they do.

The Germans thumped a full strength England side 4-1 at the last World Cup.

Only this summer, Spain handed out a 4 goal drubbing to Italy.

As for losing 6-1 at home - that’s the same score line that occurred when both Manchester teams met at Old Trafford last season.

England, Italy and Manchester United can all boast far superior playing squads than Ireland.

Yet all succumbed to heavy defeats.

Just like Ireland.

Losing to Germany is not a travesty.

Losing to Germany 6-1 isn’t either.

But the way that Ireland lost was.

And that’s what hurt the most.

They may not have the level of ability of their opponents.

But they can match them for heart.

Match their fight and spirit - so synonymous with Irish teams of the past.

Not the spirit that underpinned so many moral victories.

But the spirit that let the supporters know they were giving it their all.

Playing above themselves.

The sort that has been sadly lacking from Giovanni’s team for some months now.

Whether or not he can find it again is a serious question.

And all this is making it hard to defend Giovanni of late.

But defend him we must.

He took us to a first major championships in 10 years.

He deserves the chance to take us to the next...

Friday, 12 October 2012

Same Pitch. Different Playing Fields.



Aviva Stadium.

The road to World Cup qualification has begun.

And tonight’s fixture will go a long way to deciding who qualifies from Group C.

Ireland have just come off the back of qualification for their first major tournament in 10 years.

Germany have failed to qualify for a major tournament just once.


In all 29 tournaments they've entered.

Failed just once.

At this summers European Championships, Ireland of course, failed to win a single point.

Germany won every game in a group containing Holland, Portugal and Denmark before being knocked out in the semi-finals.

Their loss to Italy ending a run of 14 straight competitive victories.

Meaning in their last qualification campaign, the Germans won 10 out of 10.

In fact, Germany can boast such an impressive qualification record that they come to Dublin having never lost a World Cup qualification game away from home.

Let me repeat myself.

Since 1932, Germany have never lost an away game during qualification for the World Cup.

Ireland’s last notable away victory came in 1987.

And it was Scotland who won it for them.

They also go into this match without their 4 most influential players of the last decade.

They will start a competitive match without one of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff or Robbie Keane for the first time in 13 seasons.

In fact, their squad has been so decimated with injuries and retirement that it contains only 3 players from the top half of the Premier League.

It has a grand total of 1 player from this seasons Champions League.

15 less than their counterparts.

Ireland will start the match with Sunderland’s reserve team goalkeeper.

Germany will have the second most expensive keeper of all time between the posts.

The home sides defence will be made up from Everton, Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Toronto FC.

The away side will include players from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal.

Midfield will pith Bolton Wanderers against Real Madrid.

Birmingham City against Bayern Munich.

And Nottingham Forest against even more Real Madrid.

In attack, one notable absentee will be a L.A. Galaxy centre forward.

No such worries on the other side with options from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal to choose from.

The type of clubs that Germany usually pick their players from.

The type of clubs that has allowed Germany finish at least 3rd in the last 3 World Cups.

The type that has them ranked as the second best team in the world.

Second only to Spain.

The team that punished the Irish so severely when Ireland had their full strength side out.

A team that will line up tonight against a nation who are on a different playing field.

But this game doesn’t take place on a playing field.

It takes place on a pitch.

A pitch where strange things occur.

A pitch where anything can happen.

Where teams ranked 28th defeat teams ranked much higher.

Where 1 goal is all it takes.

A deflection.

An own goal.

A set-piece.

Where one team can completely dominate a game and fail to score.

The same sort of pitch that Greece prevailed on.

Same sort that saw Switzerland put 5 past Germany just a couple of months ago.

The sort that has seen Ireland defeat Italians and Dutch and English and Spanish.

Defeat Germans even.

We may not be on the same playing field tonight.

But we are on the same pitch.

It’s time to believe...