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Oct 12, 2012

German doubts dispelled in Dublin

Spending some time in the company of a German soccer reporter in the hours before Friday's World Cup qualifier in Dublin was a surprisingly depressing experience, with the negativity flowing from the travelling media troupe leaving an impression that disaster was imminent for Joachim Low and his men against a revamped Ireland side.

Few nations demand as much from their national football team as Germany and with the taste of bitter disappointment from their Euro 2012 semi-final defeat to Italy still lingering, Low appeared to have lost the confidence of those charged with observing the mindset of the traditionally positive Nationalmannschaft set.

Low did little to dampen the gloom as his pre-match press briefing was dominated by a downbeat assessment of his side's opening two Group C qualifiers last month, while also insisting improvements were required if they were to overcome an Irish side that tend to thrive in front of their exuberant home fans. The unfamiliar undercurrent of German pessimism was to be forgotten long before the end of this mismatch.

Ireland's incompetence may have been the overriding topic of debate being discussed in the press seats at the Aviva Stadium, but the real story of this game was delivered by a stunningly brilliant Germany team who reclaimed their place among the favourites for the 2014 World Cup with a wondrous 6-1 win that ended their mini-crisis before it gathered any momentum.

Those who had been preparing to downgrade Low's standing as a tactical master were forced to consume a piece of humble pie after this sparkling, scintillating, majestic demolition of a team whose energy and effort was no match for Germany's brilliance, with the clinical finishing on display complemented by some superb build-up play.

Playing with a positive arrogance and a panache that was simply too much for a shell-shocked Ireland team to resist, Germany turned on the style to hand out a demolition that may well bring down the curtain on Giovanni Trapattoni's tenure as Ireland boss.

A brace from Marco Reus plus goals from Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose and two second-half strikes from Toni Kroos confirmed Germany's domination of an injury depleted Ireland side, leaving Trapattoni to concede his side had no answer to their rival's brilliance. "They are top of the group now and this is where Germany will finish," the Italian said, somehow managing to keep his spirits high despite his side's drubbing.

"We could not contain Germany in midfield, even though we try everything. They were superior, technically and physically. All we can do now is look forward to trying to get second in this group. This was always our big target."

Speculation over Trapattoni's future was top of the agenda as the local media pack were already baying for the departure of the veteran coach ahead of this mauling, yet those writing poisonous obituaries for the Ireland manager should be reminded that this was a night when the tactical changes they have long been promoting were put into place by the coach in the line of their fire.

Calls for Trapattoni to revive his team with fresh faces and a five-man midfield have been aired time and again both before their horrendous displays at the Euro 2012 finals last summer and after their equally depressing display in Kazakhstan last month, but those much-hyped plans proved fruitless as it quickly became clear that the new Ireland are simply not capable of competing with the best on the international stage.

Toronto FC's Darren O'Dea was horribly out of his depth at the heart of their defence, while the confidence of new 'keeper Kieran Westwood can hardly have been helped by the sight of six German goals flying past him. However, those two newcomers were hardly alone in being outclassed.

The long-awaited inclusion of Wigan's James McCarthy in Trapattoni's line-up came to nothing as he was lost chasing the shadows of Ozil and his brilliant team-mates, while Nottingham Forest's Simon Cox and the consistently inconsistent Aiden McGeady cannot be relied upon to produce match-winning displays at this level.

Trapattoni's decision to chase the game with the introduction of Shane Long in the second half backfired as it merely invited more pain to be applied by Germany, yet the Italian insisted he was not ready to walk away from the Ireland job. "Why am I not the best man for this job?" he asked in response to critical questions. "No, we look forward to Tuesday's match in the Faroes now and it will not be easy.

"I never, ever concede in my career six goals, but I know it can happen in football and we have to understand why. We cannot look for excuses. We started this game well for 30 minutes, but once we concede the goal, it was difficult."

It seems somewhat implausible that a desperately battered Ireland side can recover their composure in time for Tuesday's trip to the Faroe Islands and anything less than a victory in that game will almost certainly herald Trapattoni's departure, yet this match served to ensure the ludicrous murmurings of discontent surrounding Germany chief Low can now be banished for good.

His success in blending the youthful promise of the likes of Reus and Ozil with veteran performers Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski has been a triumph Trapattoni would love to learn from as he looks to complete a similar shake up of his Ireland ranks, but the gulf in class between the talent available to the two coaches was exposed in graphic fashion on Friday night.

Rumours of unrest in the Germany camp sparked by Schweinsteiger's inflammatory pre-match comments can be forgotten as just three games into their World Cup qualifying push, Low and his clinical passing masters are on course to arrive in perfect condition for what was always likely to be their natural date with destiny in the summer of 2014.

If the brilliant Spanish side that has ruled the world for six years are edging closer to the natural end of their historic winning cycle, this vibrant Germany outfit look well placed to succeed them as the game's new superpower under the gaze of a superbly polished coach whose credentials should not be doubted by so-called experts who should know better.

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