Mesut Ozil v Keith Andrews
Giovanni Trapattoni gives instructions to Keith Andrews ahead of the Germany game (INPHO/Donall Farmer).
The Irish management team have correctly identified Mesut Ozil as the key player to stop in the opposition’s midfield. Although the Real Madrifd man hasn’t been in the best of form at club level, he is still probably the player in the German team who is most likely to dictate the tempo of the game and open up the Irish defence, with his exceptional vision and considerable footballing ability.
It remains to be seen whether Trapattoni will delegate one player to do a straight man-marking job on Ozil. Should this be the case, one would presume Keith Andrews would be the man handed the responsibility of doing so, as he is the least creative and most defensively effective of the three Irish midfielders playing tonight. Either way, McCarthy and Fahey will at times be expected to help out their colleague.
Andrews, meanwhile, undoubtedly realises that he will be up against a player who possesses vastly superior technical ability than him, and so he needs a performance that encompasses an abundance of grit, determination and stamina more than anything. Consequently, a display similar to the imperious one he gave in the away play-off against France a few years back – another instance in which he was facing players who were clearly better than him technically – would enhance Ireland’s chances considerably tonight.
Mioslav Klose v Keiren Westwood
Miroslav Klose is known for his fantastic goalscoring record at international level (INPHO/GETTY IMAGES).
With 64 goals in 124 internationals, Miroslav Klose is more or less the German equivalent of Robbie Keane – a player of undoubted talent who always seems to rise to the occasion on the international stage. Although, in contrast with Keane to an extent, his powers have hardly dwindled with age. Klose has been an integral part of a Lazio side that have started the Serie A season in impressive fashion, and his goalscoring record alone means Ireland will have to keep a watchful eye over him this evening.
The makeshift central defensive partnership of John O’Shea and Darren O’Dea will have to produce a sterling performance, as will Keiren Westwood, who has something to prove tonight not just to Ireland but to Martin O’Neill, with the Sunderland manager consistently opting to select Simon Mignolet ahead of him thus far during his reign at the club.
Holger Badstuber v Jonathan Walters
Jonathan Walters is likely to bring significant physicality to the Irish attack (INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan)
European football aficionados will be familiar with Holger Badstuber, the highly rated Bayern Munich central defender who was once described by former coach Louis van Gaal as the best left-footed defender in Germany, adding that he was an automatic starter for the team. And Badstuber’s reputation has only grown since then, as he featured in all of Germany’s Euro 2012 games, starting ahead of Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker.
Trapattoni was largely derided for picking Walters over Shane Long, who, with his pace, agility and exuberance, seems more equipped to play as a lone frontman. Nonetheless, Walters could yet prove an astute selection. The Stoke man has the ability to bully opposition defenders and has exceeded expectations since his move to Stoke, getting in the team ahead of more expensive purchases such as Kenwyne Jones.
Consequently, though Walters is certainly not a popular choice to start, the Merseyside-born player has made a habit of proving critics wrong over the course of his career, having been let go by Blackburn as a youngster, before gradually returning to the top level of English football. Whether he is up to the challenge of competing against one of the best defenders in Europe, however, remains to be seen.