Germany vs. Ireland: Key Battles in World Cup Qualifier
Republic of Ireland face a daunting trip to the Rhein Energie Stadion in their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Germany.
The struggling nation relieved Giovanni Trapattoni of his managerial duties after September’s losses to Sweden and Austria, per Sky Sports. Despite outlining a number of candidates for the vacant spot, Ireland Under 21 boss Noel King takes up the reins for the clash with DFB, also reported by Sky Sports.
Ireland currently sit fourth in Group C and can only make next summer’s World Cup via a mathematical miracle. A win for Germany guarantees Joachim Loew’s unbeaten side a place in Brazil, ensuring the home team are unlikely to take their foot off the gas just yet.
A number important personal battles will take place across the pitch. Which encounters have the power to define this match? Let’s take a look.
Key Battle to Watch
Per Mertesacker vs. Robbie Keane
Ireland’s task is terrifying from the outset, especially when you consider Germany whooped The Green Army 6-1 back in October.
Natural leaders John O’Shea and Richard Dunne will miss the game through suspension, per Goal.com, meaning Robbie Keane must dictate from the front. He is likely to come up against Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker, a player who has enjoyed a decent run of form in recent times.
Keane isn’t going to get many chances in Germany, but he must hold the ball up and bring others into play. It would be wise for King to drill his team into a short passing game that bypasses the need to execute high balls. With Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng shadowing Keane’s every move, lofted passes will only result in frustration for the visitors.
Ireland must also be wary of Mertesacker from set pieces. The Gunners defender netted in Germany’s recent 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands and also scored in Arsenal’s victory against Stoke.
While Keane isn’t going to stop the towering German from nodding another home, his ability to loiter just outside the box will give Ireland an option when counterattacking from corners. If he’s ready to put on the afterburners, Mertesacker may have to stay back.
Mesut Ozil vs. Darron Gibson
Speaking of Arsenal-based Germans, Mesut Ozil has become an instant hero since moving to the Emirates.
The former Real Madrid star remains a key player at the international level and should rank highly on Ireland’s list of concerns. He has four assists and one goal in eight appearances for Arsene Wenger’s team, per WhoScored, indicating his form is something for King’s men to worry about.
Darron Gibson has recently returned from injury and will add a sense of steel to Ireland’s side. Germany are likely to have the likes of Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos playing alongside Ozil in an attacking midfield role, indicating space is going to be immensely tight just in front of Ireland’s defence.
Who will win this match?
Gibson must exert physical pressure on Ozil. Should he do this, Germany will find it difficult to hit their passing rhythm and will need a change of game plan in order to break through Ireland’s defence.
Ireland's back four have conceded 13 goals in qualifying so far, but if players such as Gibson shield the defence, Ireland can escape Germany without that total increasing too rapidly.
Everton’s midfielder can’t do it all himself, and should Gibson man-mark Ozil out of the game, his compatriots need to ensure Germany’s other talents face a battle of constant, time-limiting pressure.
Which key battles will you be looking out for during this game? Let us know in the comments section and be sure to discuss the match with me on Twitter:
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