After the semi-final failure at Euro 2012, a disappointing friendly home defeat to Argentina and two fairly insipid and uninspired performances in September in their opening two World Cup qualifying matches, Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw found himself under pressure for what was probably the first time in his six-year stint in charge.
Facing his side would be the Republic of Ireland – a team that in the past had been something of a thorn in the side of the Nationalmannschaft – but in the end the German team would overcome a sluggish opening spell to inflict the biggest home defeat for the Irish in their long footballing history. The pressure would not be off, but the performance would have pleased both the coach and his growing army of critics.
The spirited Irish had in the past always provided stiff opposition, but once Germany had taken the lead through the magnificent Marco Reus the floodgates simply opened as they steamrollered their way to six goals and another three points without ever breaking sweat. The one blot on the canvas would be the goal conceded right at the death, ruining ‘keeper Manuel Neuer’s attempt to keep a clean sheet.
Facts and Stats
This would be the seventeenth meeting between the two sides, with the Germans having won seven and the Irish five with four draws. Interestingly, the teams had only played their first competitive fixture in 2002 during the first phase of the FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea – with the Irish netting an injury time goal to cancel out Miroslav Klose’s first-half opener. The qualifying round for Euro 2008 would see both teams meet again, with the Germans winning by a single goal in Stuttgart followed by a rather dull goalless draw in Dublin.
The overall records were close the numbers would favour the Germans: they had not been defeated by the Irish in Dublin since 1956, were unbeaten in the three competitive meetings between the three sides, and had never been beaten in a World Cup qualifying match away from home – a stunning record stretching back to 1934 and thirty-eight matches.
The Team and Tactics
With skipper Lahm and central defender Mats Hummels unavailable, selection would be a straightforward affair for Löw – who would stick with the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 system.
The defence has arguably been Germany’s weakest suit for a number of years, and the four men selected were probably the only four that could realistically have been selected. The injury to Hummels had led to Hamburger SV skipper Heiko Westermann being brought into the squad for the first time in two years, but there was little doubt that the coach would start with a more tried and tested quartet ahead of mainstay Manuel Neuer. The right-back position vacated by the suspended Lahm would be filled by the recalled Jérôme Boateng, the in-form Per Mertesacker would come in for Hummels, while Holger Badstuber and Marcel Schmelzer would make up the four.
The potential frailty of the defence would be compensated by the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger who would reestablish his partnership with Sami Khedira as part of a solid defensive midfield backbone – with Toni Kroos on the subs’ bench. Further up the field there would be no changes from the eleven that started against Austria in Vienna, with the attacking midfield trio of Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Marco Reus lining up behind striker Miroslav Klose.
If Jogi Löw had to deal with selection issues, Irish coach and ex-FC Bayern Trainer Giovanni Trappatoni found himself facing even bigger problems: top goalscorer Robbie Keane would be missing, along with many of those who had started in the recent Euros including Damien Duff (retired), Sean St. Ledger, Kevin Doyle and Richard Dunne (all injured). The home side would come into the game with three qualifying points already on the board, having turned almost certain defeat into victory with two very late goals in Kazakhstan.
Germany would start slowly, as the home side made much of the early running in what was a frenetic but not massively testing period for Manuel Neuer and the German defence. The German midfield would take time to establish themselves, and at times were looking just as sluggish as they had been against the Faroe Islands and Austria. If it was not a misplaced or mistimed pass, it would be a case one touch too many as move after move broke down in frustrating fashion.
With a quarter of the match gone Löw’s side were finally able to look threatening, and on the half-hour mark should really have been awarded a penalty when Reus was upended by John O’Shea. The Irish defender could have perhaps should have seen red, but instead the Italian referee chose to wave a yellow card at the somewhat confused Reus.
The decision by Mr. Rizzoli would cap off a frustrating opening spell for the Mannschaft, but thankfully things would break for them moments later when Schweinsteiger’s flick into the Irish box was half-collected by Schmelzer before the entire Irish defence made a complete hash of the clearance – allowing the fleet-footed Reus to dance into the box and take the ball past his marker before lifting it over ‘keeper Keiren Westwood and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
From that point on, there would only be one winner in what soon become a very one-sided contest. The Germans quietly slipped into a second gear, and before half-time they would be two goals to the good when they broke at pace. Özil stormed out of defence to find right-back Boateng, whose cross-field ball found Reus in space out on the left. Cue another fantastic finish by the Borussia Dortmund youngster, whose left-footed shot flew unerringly past Westwood.
The second half would bring no respite for Trappatoni’s men, as the Germans completely took them to the cleaners in the space of six minutes of the second half. When Klose was hacked down in the box Özil made it three with a smoothest of penalties, and this was quickly followed by a 65th international goal for Klose and a stunning long-range volley from substitute Kroos, who had come on for Khedira at the break.
The tiring Irish defence were now being run ragged by Özil and co., with almost every German move looking like it would result in a goal. There would be a bit of a wait for the the sixth, but it was all worth it for the visiting supporters as Kroos slammed in another long-distance stunner as the Irish were well and truly hit for six.
Conclusions and Ratings
The first twenty-five minutes excepted, this was a professional performance from Germany. The team looked solid defensively, though in truth they were not really tested by an Irish side that set out – initially at least – to frustrate the opposition rather than create anything of their own. Both Per Mertesacker and Holger Badstuber had a quiet evening, Jérôme Boateng was solid at right-back and added potency going forward, while left-back Marcel Schmelzer overcame a few jittery moments to have a satisfactory evening.
The midfield on the other hand were simply magnificent. Marco Reus showed what a versatile and highly talented player he is with two goals – the first with his right foot, the second with his left – while substitute Toni Kroos added another attacking dimensions with his two spectacular long-range efforts. bastian Schweinsteiger showed just what an asset he is to the side with a first-class captain’s performance and a killer pass to Miroslav Klose, who shut up all his detractors – for the time being at least – with a well-taken goal to edge ever closer to Gerd Müller record of sixty-eight international goals.
If any criticisms could be levelled at Joachim Löw’s side, it would be the sluggish way they started the game and the soft goal that was given away at the end. Having made a magnificent save to deny Irish substitute Andy Keogh in injury time, Manuel Neuer would be let down by a defence that once again remained static and clueless against an opposition corner kick. The inability to take and defend corners effectively has continued to haunt German sides in recent years – from Carles Puyol’s headed goal in the 2010 World Cup semi-final through to FC Bayern München’s disaster in the Champions’ League final against Chelsea when they made a mess of twenty corners only to see the opposition score right at the death from their one and only.
The coach may have some sort of aversion to spending time on this, but when the time comes to play better teams than the Irish this shortcoming is surely going to be exploited. Neuer is a great goalkeeper, but there is little or nothing he can do when the defence decides to play statues as the ball is pinged straight into the box and onto an opposition head. As for taking corners, the current side would do well to watch some old videos of Andreas Brehme and Pierre Littbarski.
Apart from having to rush out of his area to spectacularly head clear in the opening twenty or so minutes, the German ‘keeper had nothing to do until right at the very end when he pulled off a stunning left-handed save. He would have been annoyed by his defence moments later however as they allowed Andy Keogh a free header.
In for the suspended Philipp Lahm at right-back, Boateng made the most of his recall by playing positively in looking to get forward. Had one decent shot at goal and set up Marco Reus’ second with an intelligent cross-field ball, but blotted his copybook slightly at the end when he could he positioned himself better to prevent the Irish goal.
With the Irish offering little threat through the middle of the field, the Arsenal centre-back would have a fairly quiet evening. He got almost everything right, and his sense of positioning and tactical nouse made for an effortlessly clean performance.
Like Mertesacker, the FC Bayern centre-back had a quiet evening, and the only criticism was that he didn’t get further forward to show off his attacking skills when the game was already won. Showed great positioning and awareness.
Arguably the weakest link in the German back four, Schmelzer over came a slightly iffy start to turn out a solid enough performance. Although far from a traditional wing-back, he fought hard in defence and made his presence felt further up the field in setting up – albeit slightly inadvertantly – Reus’ first goal.
A quiet game for the defensive midfielder, who was taken off at half time with a slight hamstring twinge. Although he didn’t stand out, Khedira was his usual efficient self, doing his job effectively with no mistakes. Replaced by Toni Kroos.
Although not as dominant as he could have been, the fit-again Schweinsteiger delivered a captain’s performance. Marshalled things effectively, and was involved in both the opening and fourth goal, setting up the latter with the finest of fine through-balls. Has a presence and personality that was clearly lacking in earlier games.
A solid if slightly unspectacular game for Müller, who hared about as per usual without getting much of a sniff of the opposition goal. Was always dangerous on the ball however, and is always effective in drawing opposition defenders which provides Mesut Özil the space to do his business in the middle of the pitch.
Germany’s midfield maestro turned out another fine performance, running into space and causing almost ontinuous havoc for the Irish defence. Initiated the break for his side’s second goal, and capped off his performance with another excellently-taken penalty – his fourth international goal in three games.
Dynamic, energetic, fast, talented. With his fourth and fifth international goals, Reus showed once again why he is fast turning into one the Mannschaft’s most prized assets. Was a constant danger, finishing a well-taken goal with his right foot before blasting in a spectacular long-distance effort with his right. The undoubted man of the match.
The veteran striker had a quiet first half, but showed that he has lost any of his skill. Drew the foul that led to Germany’s fifty-fifth minute penalty, and scored a well-taken goal from the tightest of angles just moments later to notch up his sixty-fifth international goal. With Mario Gómez still injured and no obvious replacement in the pipeline, Klose’s place in the side seems to be safe again.
After a fairly ordinary perfomance in his previous outing against Austria, the FC Bayern man came on at half-time for Khedira and upped the stakes in his quest for a permanent place in the side with a performance that was both solid and accomplished. He made his presence felt, and thundered in two fantastic long-range goals as Germany ran riot in the second half.
Came on for Reus in the sixty-sixth minute when the team were already five goals up, but failed to fill the boots of his younger team-mate. Podolski has found form for his club side and was solid enough, but clearly does not offer the pace and extra dimension that Reus does.
Came on for Miroslav Klose some eighteen minutes from time and switched out to the left with Podolski filling the striker’s role. Made a few of his trademark jinking runs and cuts inside, but was unable to perform his usual supersub routine.
Neuer (2), Boateng (2.5), Mertesacker (2.5), Badstuber (2.5), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (3), Schweinsteiger (1.5), Müller (3), Özil (1.5), Reus (1), Klose (2). Substitutes (up until 75 minutes only): Kroos (1), Podolski (3.5), Schürrle (3).
Neuer (2), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (2), Badstuber (2), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (3), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (3), Özil (2), Reus (1), Klose (2). Substitutes (up until 75 minutes only): Kroos (1), Podolski (3), Schürrle (3).
Neuer (3), Boateng (2.5), Mertesacker (3), Badstuber (2.5), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (3.5), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (3.5), Özil (2), Reus (1), Klose (2.5). Substitutes (up until 75 minutes only): Kroos (1).