Despite missing a dozen players through injury, Joachim Loew will be confident that Germany can secure qualification for the 2014 World Cup when Ireland visit Cologne on Friday. Comfortably top of Group C with 22 points, the unbeaten Germans only require two points from their remaining two games to start booking accommodations in Brazil.
Noel King would have been hoping for a less daunting introduction as interim Ireland manager but with qualification all but mathematically impossible, few will expect much from this Irish side. To add to the difficulty of the task, Jon Walters and Keiren Westwood are late withdrawals for Ireland. In five years under Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland did not register a single victory against a team ranked above them. It will be an upset of epic proportions if the men in green were to break that streak now. Loew, however, does not plan on letting his charges underestimate the task ahead or fall prey to complacency:
“The Irish are defensively compact and play with a physical presence. It’s in their nature, they defend incredibly well and get back quickly.
It does not matter which coach is sitting on the bench and what players are on the pitch, the Irish are always difficult to play.”
Gomez, Klose, Podolski, Reus and Bender are some of the noticeable absentees but Loew is in the enviable position of having considerable strength in depth at his disposal. Having only one recognizable striker in the squad, it may also be an opportunity for Loew to revisit the viability of adopting Spain’s ‘false number nine’ formation. It is not a popular option amongst German fans who have grown up idolizing their front men but Loew has never shied away from innovation and change. In Euro 2012, the German manager famously dropped Gomez, Poldolski and Mueller in the quarter-finals against Greece and still secured a 4-2 win.
Starting without an orthodox striker is not nearly as crazy as it seems when you also consider the talent Germany have available. Any one of the Muellers, Goetze, Draxler, Kruse and Ozil would be more than a handful for most opposition defenses if called upon. Indeed if Spain learned anything from their Confederations Cup debacle against Brazil, it was the necessity of having a Plan B when things aren’t going well.
If Germany is to win its first international trophy since 1996, Loew will be aware that a squad capable of adjustment and flexibility in approach may make all the difference in tournament play.
Germany 4 -1 Rep Ireland