Euro 2016 qualifiers: Rep of Ireland host world champions Germany
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland face a decisive night in their bid to qualify for Euro 2016 in France next summer, as they prepare to host world champions and Group D leaders Germany at the Aviva Stadium in their penultimate fixture.
The Irish currently occupy third position in their pool, four points above Celtic rivals Scotland, after back-to-back victories over lesser sides Georgia and Gibraltar, and have enjoyed a solid campaign with just a single defeat across eight games.
O’Neill’s Boys in Green are 6/1 with Coral to secure a stunning win over last summer’s World Cup winners in Brazil, as they aim to push ahead from their current play-off place, though a victory for both Germany and Poland would see them be unable to reach an automatic spot.
Gordon Strachan’s Scotland must deal with the threat of Poland in Glasgow while Ireland attempt to put on a strong showing against the group leaders, with Germany 9/4 to win and both teams to score (max stake £20), but assistant Irish coach Roy Keane has rallied the troops before their Dublin liaison.
“There has to be a bit of tension, a bit of nervousness,” Keane cautioned. “And that’s good, it keeps you on edge and it’s good for your concentration levels.
“But as a player, you want to play against the best. You test yourself against the best. They (Ireland squad) should enjoy it, that’s what the game is about.
“People talk about bravery in the game. Bravery doesn’t necessarily mean in the tackle, It’s about being brave in terms of possession, going forward, not be afraid to make a mistake, take risks, forward passing.”
Ireland will have plenty of experience throughout their team’s spine for the German encounter in the capital, though will be without suspended James McClean and Glenn Whelan, but Keane expects youth to play a key factor.
The likes of Norwich City’s Robbie Brady and Derby County midfielder Jeff Hendrick are two key younger Irish stars which Keane spoke of in the set-up, which is likely to be without Wes Hoolahan and Seamus Coleman through injury.
Speaking of a potential youthful enthusiasm, Keane added: “Possibly so because of the mindset of those players. Maybe there’s other parts of the game they (younger players) mightn’t be brilliant at. You have to bring something to the party and I suppose that is their mindset, being brave and getting forward.
“We will get opportunities. And that’s where the bravery comes in: don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Particularly if you’re 20 to 30 yards out from goal.”
Veteran Sunderland centre back John O’Shea was his nation’s saviour when these two countries collided on German turf, netting a crucial last-gasp equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw last year, but the Premier League defender will face a tough Thursday evening.
Bayern Munich marksman Thomas Muller has been in incredible form for the Bundesliga champions and also leads Germany’s qualifying scoring charts, with eight strikes in seven outings, and is 4/1 to open proceedings this time out.
Although, Ireland impressively boast the best defensive record in their group, having conceded just five times in eight outings, and another clean sheet against the attacking force of Germany is 6/1, while a triumph to nil is 12/1.
Going forward, Stoke City’s towering Jonathan Walters is set for a potentially decisive battle with Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, while skipper Robbie Keane is 11/4 to dispatch anytime, 13 years on from that memorable World Cup goal against Germany in South Korea.
Ireland’s Euro 2016 fate could ultimately be decided in this German match-up on home soil, with anything less than a win coupled with a Poland victory assuring they cannot make an automatic qualifying place.
Though a famous win in front of their home supporters would see O’Neill’s Irish squad go into their final clash with Poland with destiny in their own hands.
Betting tip: Germany to win and both teams to score @ 9/4