Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Ireland’s last home international, the defeat against Sweden, petered out in an series of aimless punts so it was refreshing to see a team determined to get the ball down and pass it around.

Kazakhstan’s defensive tactics gave them plenty of time and space in possession as the visitors sat off, packing out the area in front of their goal instead. It gave Ireland ample opportunity to move the ball out of defence with the back four, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson (later Glenn Whelan) all linking well.

McCarthy in particular seemed to thrive given the opportunity to put his stamp on the game and while not perfect, this was another night where the youngster grew in international confidence.

Apart from some hurried clearances from David Forde, there were few long balls out from the back. When Richard Dunne did try one early in the second half, it seemed to catch the Kazakh defence off guard and very nearly led to a goal for Robbie Keane.

… but there was a worrying lack of cutting edge

For all of their dominance in possession, Ireland created very few clear-cut chances to trouble Sidelnikov beyond the three goals. Noel King’s decision to go with Anthony Stokes and Kevin Doyle at the expense of more recognised wingers led to a narrowness in attack that played into Kazakhstan’s hands.

Seamus Coleman did his best to push on in support and was Ireland’s best wide outlet for long periods but on the other side, Marc Wilson was much more conservative. Stokes grew into the game in the second half but lacked end product, often turning back onto his stronger right foot which cost him valuable seconds and allowed the Kazakhs to regroup.

It wasn’t until Aiden McGeady’s introduction in the final 15 minutes that Ireland had a true “winger” on the pitch. Within minutes he had created Ireland’s third goal, turned into his own net by Shomko.

Andy Reid shone — despite a lack of support

For most observers, it was a toss-up between Andy Reid and James McCarthy for Ireland’s Man of the Match. Winning his first international cap since 2008, Reid carried over his excellent club form and proved that he still has plenty to offer this squad at the age of 31.

Playing just in behind Keane as the central man in a 4-2-3-1, Reid was the lively link in most of Ireland’s best moves. There were a few loose passes but he showed good touch and control for the most part, keeping the team on the front foot. On top of that, his set piece delivery led to Ireland’s first two goals.

“Immense” was King’s assessment afterwards and the sparse Aviva crowd clearly agreed, giving him a warm reception when he was taken off with 15 minutes to play.


Saturday, October 12, 2013


Germany have qualified for the World Cup after a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ireland in Cologne.
Sami Khedira set the ball rolling with a deflected 12th-minute effort from distance, but it was not until Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle converted Toni Kroos' pass from close range 13 minutes after the restart that the points were assured.
Mesut Ozil put the seal on Germany's passage to Brazil as the Arsenal midfielder struck in stoppage time at the end of the game to round off a 3-0 win which ensured that Joachim Low's Group C leaders cannot be caught with a game to spare after taking their points tally to 25 from a possible 27.
Indeed, the game might have turned out very differently had Ireland, for whom goalkeeper David Forde was superb, enjoyed slightly better fortune in a flurry of activity either side of half-time.

Defender Ciaran Clark, the man who was clipped by Khedira's goal-bound shot, almost made amends in first-half injury time with a header which came back off the crossbar, and lone striker Anthony Stokes caught the Germans cold just 17 seconds into the second half with a shot which flew just wide.
Ireland at least restored a measure of pride a day short of a year since they were taken apart by Germany at the Aviva Stadium in a 6-1 rout which very nearly cost Giovanni Trapattoni his job during the days which followed.
Ireland will bring a disappointing campaign to a close at home to Kazakhstan on Tuesday already looking towards the Euro 2016 qualifiers which begin in September next year.
By contrast, the Germans head for Sweden knowing their job is done and they can start planning in earnest for an assault on World Cup glory.
Interim manager Noel King retained only four of the men who started against Austria last month, although he had no choice over suspended duo Richard Dunne and John O'Shea or the injured Robbie Keane, and only skipper for the night Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy survived from the mauling in Dublin.
He had worked all week on a system designed to frustrate the runaway group leaders and, while his 4-2-3-1 formation was not a surprise, the personnel he asked to fill some of those roles was.
Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson sat in front of the back four with a midfield trio of Kevin Doyle, McCarthy and Glenn Whelan playing behind lone striker Stokes.

The Celtic frontman was inevitably isolated for long periods, but Ireland's early focus was on solid defence, and the plan worked.
Or at least it did for 12 minutes until their luck ran out.
Stokes was guilty of giving the ball away too easily deep inside his own half and German skipper Philipp Lahm pounced to feed Khedira, whose shot took a decisive deflection off Clark and completely wrong-footed Forde.
But it was not until the final 10 minutes of the first half that the pressure started to tell.
Schurrle, who had earlier seen appeals for a penalty waved away after he appeared to get a nudge in the back from Whelan, powered a bullet header towards goal only to see Forde make a fine reaction save, and the Millwall went one better eight minutes before the break to turn away Thomas Muller's piledriver.
But Ireland were very nearly back in it in first half injury time when Gibson played a free-kick short to Whelan, whose cross was headed against the bar by Clark with Stokes miskicking as he attempted to volley home the rebound.
Ireland returned in determined mood and went close twice within the opening two minutes of the second half, Stokes firing just wide after running on to Doyle's knock-down and then forcing Manuel Neuer to tip over a dipping cross.
Stokes later missed the target from an unlikely angle after Neuer had unwisely left his line in pursuit, ultimately in vain, of a defence-splitting Whelan through-ball.
But the game was over when Schurrle controlled Kroos' deft 58th-minute pass and beat Forde with ease to make it 2-0.
Ireland might have got themselves back into the game with 17 minutes remaining but for a good double save by Neuer to deny first Stokes then Coleman, and Stokes and Clark both went close again in a late flurry.
However, Ozil had the last word when he ran on to Kroos' pass in stoppage time to complete the victory.