Depleted but not dejected, Ireland seek to shock | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 11.10.2012
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Depleted but not dejected, Ireland seek to shock

Ireland's squad is even more heavily depleted than Germany's going into Friday's World Cup qualifier in Dublin. But the Irish haven't given up hope, knowing that they're up against a misfiring German side.

Six key players have been added to the Republic of Ireland's injured roster this week. With a list of likely starters out of the game, their team will have to depend on a complete overhaul in strategy and leadership.

The latest player ruled out of the game is captain and striker Robbie Keane, suffering from an Achilles injury. The captain's absence was confirmed just a day before the clash against Germany, a final twist of the knife.

Ireland's Sean St. Ledger, center, celebrates with Robbie Keane, left, and Kevin Doyle after scoring during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group C match between the Republic of Ireland and Croatia in Poznan, Poland, Sunday, June 10, 2012. (Photo: AP)

St. Ledger (center) and Robbie Keane (number 10) are unfit to play

Keane joins teammates like defender Sean St Ledger, midfielder Glen Whelan and winger James McClean - all of whom are unavailable for Friday's game. St Ledger and Whelan are suffering from hamstring problems and McLean from a hip flexor injury.

It doesn't stop there. Ireland's injury woes began in September with striker Kevin Doyle having thigh trouble and defender Richard Dunne enduring a groin issue.

Strategic switch?

Typically, the Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni employs a rigid 4-4-2 formation. But in this week's match he is going to have to compensate for his losses.

Trapattoni's assistant Marco Tardelli said Ireland might employ a 4-3-3 instead to match more closely with coach Joachim Löw's preferred German lineup of an isolated striker, two wingers and a triangle in the middle of the park.

Germany's Philipp Lahm celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Germany and Greece in Gdansk, Poland, Friday, June 22, 2012.(Photo: AP)

Luckily for Ireland, Germany is also missing its captain, Philipp Lahm

This could prove a bold move, especially considering the precedents. The last time Trapattoni changed his 4-4-2 system, for a Euro 2012 group game this summer, the all-conquering Spanish mauled Ireland 4-0 - even spurning several chances to widen the margin.

Trapattoni is confident in his squad's ability despite the changes in play they will have to adopt. The Irish are clear underdogs, however, standing at 28 in FIFA's world rankings.

"We will try to win. It's normal for us," he said. "If we can win against Germany, it will be important for the team and for the country."

Ireland has drafted in a few new additions for support, including Chelsea midfielder Conor Clifford and Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark. Also, Sunderland's David Meyler and Manchester United's Robbie Brady will both be hoping for their second caps, having made their international debuts in September. Brady scored first time out and set up another two goals in a friendly against lowly Oman.

Inside knowledge?

Trapattoni is well acquainted with German football and knows the task Ireland will face. He had two stints as head coach of Bayern Munich in the 1990s and then a brief spell in charge of Stuttgart starting in 2005 - though he was sacked the following February after just 20 league games. The veteran Italian acknowledged during a press conference that Germany is a formidable challenger, but not unbeatable.

Giovanni Trapattoni reacts during the German first division soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and VFB Stuttgart at the Westfalen Stadium, Dortmund, Germany, in this Oct. 2, 2005 shot. (Photo: AP)

Trapattoni is a familiar face - and sometimes even a figure of fun - for Bundesliga fans

"I know the German players; I know their attitude, their quality," he said.

The Irish have only played one game so far in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers - a 2-1 win against Kazakhstan. To put that in perspective, Germany were disappointed to "only" beat the Kazakhs 3-0.

Furthermore, it was an embarrassingly narrow win against one of the lowest ranked national teams in the world. Staring shock defeat in the face, the Irish scored two goals in the last two minutes, one from a penalty and the other from a substitute.

Germany currently lead Group C with 6 points and have not lost a match. Also, they have only lost two of the 74 qualifiers in the team's history.

Some hope in history

If you take a look at the head-to-head history between Ireland and Germany, the numbers will maybe give Ireland some optimism. The two teams have met a total of 16 times, with Germany on top overall. Still, Ireland have five wins and four draws to their name - a ratio that makes them easily an above-average performer against Germany.

According to a recent AP article, one of Ireland's senior footballers, Andy Keogh, insists that the weight will be on Germany's shoulders as the media and spectators expect them to maintain a third consecutive win. Keogh suggests that his team rely on their underdog status to pull off a surprise win.

"The pressure is on them to come and win, they are the ones everyone thinks are going to win the group," he said. "We have just got to go out, be disciplined, keep our shape, try to keep a clean sheet and just go from there."

Ireland is currently tied in the group for second place with Sweden, each holding three points. The hopeful Irish squad intends on hauling in every resource to try and deliver what would be another disappointing defeat for the Germans after their Euro 2012 semi-finals flop.

To do that, though, they'll need a stellar showing coupled with a good slice of luck at the Aviva Stadium on Friday. They will also hope to face a German side that's off its game - a sight that's been by no means uncommon in recent months.

cg/msh (dpa, Reuters, AP)