A simple conclusion to draw after Poland’s remarkable 2-0 win over Germany in Euro 2016 qualifying is that the Republic of Ireland’s goose is cooked, despite Martin O’Neill’s side gaining six points from their first two Group D fixtures.
Many expect a backlash from the World Cup winners at Schalke’s Veltins-Arena, with Joachim Low’s hosts priced at 1/4 to see off the Boys in Green, while the visitors can be backed at whopping 10/1 odds and the draw 4/1.
Here at news.Ladbrokes, however, we’ve identified a few ways O’Neill’s crowd can ruffle German feathers in Gelsenkirchen.
Fly out of the traps
With Ireland expected to make up to five changes from the XI that strolled to a 7-0 victory against Gibraltar, the worst team in European international football, they should go into this match as fresh as any side taking on a second qualifier in a week.
Germany, on the other hand, sent a full-strength team to Warsaw at the weekend in search of three points, only to find their players on the receiving end of a first defeat to Poland in the country’s history.
Joachim Low’s World Cup winners have lost two of their three games since lifting the golden bauble in Rio de Janeiro, with the sole post-Brazil victory a narrow 2-1 at home to Scotland.
They’re bound to be feeling the heat after such an historic defeat, so O’Neill must instruct his side to get in Die Mannschaft faces early in order to compound any doubts in Low’s men’s minds.
Recall Shane Long
Mats Hummels is rightly regarded as one of the world’s best centre-halves, but he’s by no means the quickest.
By bringing in £12m Southampton forward Long, probably for Wigan’s James McClean, Ireland would possess ample pace off the wings to attack Germany’s shaky defence, which is likely to again include Eric Durm and Antonio Rudiger, who have seven caps between them.
Having let in seven goals in three games since Brazil, despite the presence of arguably the world’s best goalkeeper between the sticks in Manuel Neuer, Germany can clearly be got at.
Stick Anthony Pilkington on Toni Kroos
The tactic of nullifying a team’s midfield playmaker by sending an all-action forward on a man-marking mission has become increasingly fashionable in recent years.
Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck did a remarkable job on ex-Real Madrid ball-pinger Xabi Alonso for his old club in the 2012/13 Champions League knockout stages, while West Ham winger Stewart Downing stuck like glue to Steven Gerrard during his side’s recent 3-1 win over Liverpool.
With Wes Hoolahan likely to be benched for the Veltins-Arena clash, O’Neill should turn to the Dubliner’s former Norwich teammate Anthony Pilkington, now at Cardiff, to keep watch on Kroos.
The 26-year-old is hard-working, quick and has a certain aptitude for the big occasion, having scored the Canaries’ winner when they beat Man Utd, who Pilkington spent time with as a teenager, two years ago.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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