Aleix Gwilliam, co-editor of the English-language German-football website Bundesliga Fanatic, predicts a much different game between Ireland and Germany on Friday than the hammering in Dublin. Joachim Löw’s squad selection has not been without controversy but with qualification still to be secured, it could prove another long night on the banks of the Rhine for Noel King’s Ireland no matter what tactics he tries.
Almost a year to the day since their last encounter, which ended with Germany winning 6-1 at the Aviva Stadium, the Republic of Ireland meet Joachim Löw’s side again, but everything indicates it will be a completely different match to the one back in 2012.
The German manager has had injury problems ahead of Friday evening’s clash, with as many as eight potential first-team players out of contention. To the already-known absences of Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gündoğan, Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose; Marco Reus, Lars Bender and his twin brother Sven have also been ruled out.
Löw’s selection, though, has not been exempt from controversy as he has once again failed to select Bayer Leverkusen’s Stefan Kießling, Germany’s most in-form striker who once again fails to make the National Team. However, he did recall Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Max Kruse, Kießling’s teammate Sidney Sam and Hamburg’s Marcel Jansen, the latter to cover for Schmelzer’s absence.
Germany will qualify for the World Cup if they manage to avoid defeat and Löw has stated that he wants to finish the group with the same core of players that he had at the beginning. Löw will name a strong XI that will go in search of victory from the go without speculation but how he’ll do it is still unclear, whether he will play Kruse up front in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system or revert to the (in)famous ‘false 9’ role with Thomas Müller up top.
“Germany’s form coming into the match has been unspectacular yet efficient. What Joachim Löw has accomplished with his predictable selections is that the team is now compact and know each other well, but the danger here is not to fall into the complacency that saw them squander a 4-goal lead against Sweden back in October of last year.”
Having conceded just one goal and scored thirteen in the four qualifying matches since that fateful night in Berlin, matches which can also be counted as victories, Germany will want to seal their ticket to Brazil so that they can use the upcoming Sweden match to experiment with tactics and team selection, as Löw indicated in the press this week.
In a way, the match will also be an experiment for Löw who is bringing back a dubiously fit Mario Götze into the squad, who probably will have some minutes in Cologne, as should starlet Julian Draxler, another player to watch for the not-so-distant future. Bastian Schweinsteiger will be making his 99th appearance for Germany and has a point to prove after his injury, with many criticising his recent form for the national team, while Mesut Özil will be hunting for more assists like he’s done at Arsenal and most of the attacking play will go through him.
Because Germany are expected to have most of the possession, Ireland will probably sit back and try and hit on the counterattack or with a set piece but with Germany winning in the height department and with Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels expected to start at the back, two centre backs with good positioning and anticipation, it could become a very long game for Ireland, especially if they play with the lone striker. If they play two up front, that would leave them in inferiority in midfield, which would play into the German’s hands.
With the upcoming World Cup now less than 12 months away, Löw wants the young team that impressed the world in 2010, narrowly losing to winners Spain, to show how they have grown in the last four years and a semi-final appearance is the minimum expected. However, once again, their qualifying group has proven of little difficulty, with the only match they have dropped points in being the freak 4-4 draw against Sweden which was 45 minutes of madness anyway. Having said that, playing the Republic of Ireland will give German players more of a physical test rather than a technical one.
It comes as no surprise that Germany are expected to win the match and my guess is that they will do it in the same manner they’ve been solving their previous affairs, efficiently and unspectacularly. Although I very much doubt it will be a repeat of the first leg, an opinion based purely on current circumstances. If the victory is secure in the first half, Löw will probably make a couple of adjustments and try different tactics and players in the second, which could see more inexperienced faces come into the fold and that might give Ireland a bit of a respite. However, my prediction is 3-0 to Germany.