Germany can wrap up qualification for next year’s World Cup with a game to spare if they can get a win over the Republic of Ireland in Cologne on Friday. Joachim Low’s side sit five points clear of second-place Sweden in Group C. A draw or even defeat will still be enough for Germany to book their place in Brazil, if the Swedes fail to beat Austria in Solna. It would take something extraordinary for a talented German side not to qualify automatically as group winners, but Low admits that he is in no mood to wait.
“We're greedy, we want to win the game before a home crowd and secure our qualification," he said, according to FIFA.com. "I have fond memories of the compact Cologne stadium and we want to qualify as group winners without questions or discussions. I have a good feeling about Friday."
Low’s task has been made slightly more difficult, with several players unavailable through injury. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus will be missing as will strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez.
The visitors also have their problems with Robbie Keane a major doubt, having not trained on Thursday due to an ankle injury. Richard Dunne and John O’Shea are already ruled out through suspension. But Ireland have bigger problems with their hopes of qualification having realistically gone by the wayside. Mathematically they remain in contention, but, laying in fourth place in the group -- three points behind Austria and six behind Sweden -- it would take an extraordinary series of results for them to gain a playoff spot.
It is an outcome that the Football Association of Ireland have accepted, having parted company with former manager Giovanni Trapattoni after defeats to both Sweden and Austria last month. In the Italian’s place has stepped Under-21 manager Noel King to fill the void while time is taken to appoint a permanent successor. The 57-year-old, who has broken with the previous regimes policy of naming the team a day before matches, has recalled Andy Reid, Darron Gibson and Anthony Stokes to the squad, all of whom were outcasts under Trapattoni. And, despite having little to play for, King is determined for his side to somehow pick up a victory.
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“We are not the strongest football nation in the world, so sometimes we can't play the way we want to play,” he said, according to The Guardian. “But there's a game to be fought for, there are points to be won and we will do whatever possible that we think is the right thing to try to get the win.”
D: Lahm, Boateng, Mertesacker, Jansen
M: Schweinsteiger, Khedira
Muller, Ozil, Draxler
Republic of Ireland (probable)
D: Coleman, Delaney, Clark, Wilson
M: Pilkington, McCarthy, Gibson, McClean
F: Keane, Long
Prediction: While he has undoubtedly been a great coach, there was a definite sense of the game leaving Trapattoni behind in recent times. Not only did his tactics fail to inspire any enthusiasm but his reluctance to introduce fresh blood to the team, coupled with him falling out with several players also contributed to the decision that the time was right for a change. Having said that, against a Germany side that beat the Republic 6-1 in Dublin last year, King’s tactics will doubtless be very similar to those of Trapattoni in trying to keep their illustrious opponents at bay.
Expect more resistance from Ireland than they produced last time around and the visitors will be helped by Germany’s injuries up front. Having said that, this is a German generation with exceptional strength in depth and still have more than enough offensive weaponry to get the win.
Germany 3-1 Republic of Ireland
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a love stream available on Watch ESPN.