Trap’s possible 4-3-3 was always going to mean 4-5-1
BAR A PROMISING opening 15 minutes in which they briefly seemed like they might put it up to Germany, Ireland were on a containment and damage limitation exercise from the outset.
In his pre-match press conference, Giovanni Trapattoni said that his starting XI allowed for a flexibility between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, depending on the evening’s circumstances. In reality, it turned out to be a defensive 4-5-1 with Jon Walters flying solo up front.
The two wide men Aiden McGeady and Simon Cox got up to offer some support during the opening minutes but their presence in attacking positions became a less frequent sight as the game wore on and Ireland played with 10 behind the ball.
Containment was a doomed tactic from the outset
Once Germany grew into the game, it quickly became clear that Ireland would need a flawless performance to keep their technically superior opposition at bay. Good shape and timely pressing seemed to do that initially, frustrating Germany and forcing Sami Kheidira to try ambitious lofted passes to find a way through the green wall.
Two mistakes in two minutes shortly after the half-hour mark set the tone for the rest of the evening. John O’Shea’s dawdling should have led to a penalty for Marco Reus, mercifully waved away by the referee, before Aiden McGeady’s failure to track the deep run of Schmelzer gave Reus the opportunity to slam home the opener off the underside of the crossbar.
German efficiency a joy to behold
Make no mistake about it, this is a very good German side as evidenced by their lightning counter-attack for Reus’s second goal five minutes before half-time. The sublime touch and turn from Ozil to take him away from McCarthy into acres of space was followed by a beautiful sweeping ball from Boateng to Reus which carved the Irish defence open.
Ireland will feel that they could have done better for most of the goals but when presented with their chances, the German attack was ruthlessly efficient without even needing to get out of second gear.
Fringe faces with a thankless task
Managing a panel transformed by injuries and retirements, Giovanni Trapattoni presented tonight’s game as an opportunity for his fringe players to stake a claim for a regular spot. Against this calibre of opposition, it was always going to be practically impossible for them to do that and the fear now is that Trapattoni will use the fingers he burned tonight as justification to retreat back into his conservative shell.
Seamus Coleman will know that he could have done better for Germany’s first two goals, but it was encouraging to see him press on and attack space on the right as Ireland tried to bounce back from Reus’s opener. That he was stranded without support and boxed out, allowing Germany to launch the counter-attack for his second, should not be used as a reason to send the 24-year-old into international exile.
Similarly for James McCarthy who started well in midfield and showed why so many had called for his inclusion with smart positional play. Like the rest of the side, he totally lost his shape as he became tired and demoralised but tonight is not the night to judge his credentials at this level.
Some straws for clutching
The game was well and truly put to bed long before Robbie Brady came on to make his competitive debut in the 83rd minute. With nothing to lose and nothing to fear, the youngster had an opportunity to make an impression on the game and did so, however little it mattered in the grand scheme of things.
He created a chance which Keogh should have scored by running at the German defence in stoppage time and then delivered an excellent corner which the clocked-off opposition seemed loathe to deal with, allowing Keogh to salvage the tiniest shred of dignity.