The shock of the international’s this week had to be the Republic or Ireland’s win over the World Champions Germany as Shane Long’s goal secured an infamous 1-0 victory in front of a capacity crowd. This leaves the Irish in a great position to qualify but the question is just how was this result even possible?
Despite having 72% of possession and boasting a 92% pass accuracy the resilience and hard work of the Irish paid off as they scored a goal on the break to down the Germans.
The goal was vintage Shane Long however his case was benefitted through some woeful defending. A long ball over the top from Darren Randolph cut right over Max Hummels whilst Jerome Boateng was caught napping momentarily as he allowed Long to drift off him and slip in behind Hummels. This space gave Long a chance to run straight at the Germans goal and with his lightning pace it all came down to his coolness in front of goal, he was ice cold. Despite having Superkeeper Manuel Neuer closing him down Long fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner completing a beautiful route one move which some consider ‘anti football’, definitely not in my book.
The Irish managed to keep nearly 50% of the Germans shots outside the box which shows the resolute and rigid defensive set up they employed typical of teams managed by Martin O’Neil. On the other hand after completing 748 passes surely they had to break through eventually.
Step up the man of the moment James McCarthy. He produced a dogged display in the centre of the park leading to him winning man of the match and keeping tabs on some of the top playmakers in the world.
By sitting off the German’s they overcrowded the centre of the park meaning players like Reus and Ozil were unable to get space in and around the box to play the killer passes into Muller. This set up employed a counter attacking system which meant chances were few and far between for the Irish. McCarthy in particular was a constant presence in the middle of the park mixing a high intensity with tenacious tackles to leave the German creativity stifled, a difficult task if you consider how many world class playmakers they had on the pitch
By not giving them any time on the ball this gave time for the Irish back 4 to set up accordingly to the direction of attack and meant very little attacking opening’s were available for the Germany strikers. They were also unable to play the ball over the top due to a lack of pace and a deep lying defensive line employed by the Irish.
When they were allowed their chances the Germans were poor in finishing them, Gundogan had the goal gaping when Gotze set him up on the edge of the box, however that Irish passion shone through again when John O’Shea put in a magical diving block to divert the ball over the bar.
Another momentary lapse of structure led to Andre Schurrle firing his first time shot over the bar, an unstoppable move from Germany saw Neuer send the ball up to Reus and when he cut inside and put it on a plate for Schurrle, with a sumptuous lofted through ball, it should have saw the World Cup winners go ahead.
However by the end of the match somehow it ended 1-0 to Ireland. This match proving football is not just about possession and how many passes you can complete, it showed the core values of home nations football. Passion, hardwork and a bit of luck as they ran away with a result people in Ireland will be talking about for years, no one can take this credit away from the sensational Martin O’Neil. Well done Ireland!