/ Soccer

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Germany

Updated: Saturday, 13 Oct 2007 22:53

Steve Staunton consoles Robbie Keane after the game Steve Finnan challenges Germany's Gonzalo Castro
Steve Staunton consoles Robbie Keane after the game Steve Finnan challenges Germany's Gonzalo Castro

Germany duly claimed their place at next summer's Euro 2008 finals, leaving the Republic of Ireland requiring the mother of all mathematical miracles to join them.

For only the second time in nine Group D qualifying matches the Germans dropped points, and on another night the scoreline would have been a respectable one from an Irish point of view.

But manager Steve Staunton's side came into the game at Croke Park needing a victory, and now they are staring grimly at the prospect of missing out on playing at a major tournament for the third successive occasion.

The Republic need to win their final two matches against Cyprus on Wednesday and then Wales next month, whilst hoping the Czech Republic lose all three of their remaining matches.

By that reckoning, they should start preparing in earnest for the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign that will start next September.

They had the best opportunity of what was largely an uninspiring 90 minutes, but captain Robbie Keane squandered the gilt-edged chance, and with it went the last realistic hope of qualifying.

The Irish crowd at least played their part immediately before kick-off by generating an electric atmosphere; but it is unfortunate that what followed on the pitch barely crackled.

That was not helped by Staunton's team selection as he opted to hand Andy Keogh his first competitive start by playing the Wolves striker on the right wing.

Due to defensive deficiencies, Bolton right-back Joey O'Brien returned to international football 19 months after winning his first cap by partnering Richard Dunne at the heart of the back four.

Birmingham right-back Stephen Kelly was switched to left-back, with John O'Shea failing a fitness test on a leg injury.

Germany were not without their problems either as coach Joachim Low came into the game without Michael Ballack, Tim Borowski, Bernd Schneider, Roberto Hilbert and Miroslav Klose.

After 17 minutes he then lost another key midfielder in Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger following a nasty, but accidental clash of heads with Wigan winger Kevin Kilbane.

It was Schweinsteiger who came off worse as blood poured from a wound on the top of his forehead, and despite treatment, he was eventually replaced by Simon Rolfes.

After three minutes on the sidelines, Kilbane returned nursing a gash just above his left eye.

But it was while Ireland had a temporary numerical advantage that Germany created the first chance of a low-key first half.

In the 16th minute Mario Gomez, surprisingly preferred ahead of Lukas Podolski in attack, steered a low left-wing cross from Marcell Jansen inches over the crossbar.

Ireland appreciably worked hard, but were woefully short of ideas, epitomised by the fact they created just one notable chance in the opening period.

Kelly and Charlton's Andy Reid, fit after shaking off an ankle injury, combined to set up Keane.

But the Tottenham striker saw his shot from a tight angle blocked by Jens Lehmann, the goalkeeper out of favour at Arsenal but clearly Low's first choice on the international front.

The best chance prior to the interval arrived in the 37th minute, with Steve Finnan clearing off the line a near-post header from Christoph Metzelder after rising unchallenged to a Clemens Fritz corner.

Amazing what a half-time break can do as the opening five minutes of the second period contained more action than the preceding 45 - and Ireland should have taken the lead.

Their initial opportunity was fortuitous as Lee Carsley, booked in the first half and who will now miss the home game with Cyprus on Wednesday, merely hung up a cross to the far post from a short corner that had a back-tracking Lehmann scrambling to tip the ball over the bar.

The second moments later Keane should have buried as he beat the offside trap.

But with only Lehmann to beat, the Republic's all-time 31-goal leading scorer tamely fluffed his attempted chip from 12 yards into the welcoming arms of Germany's veteran goalkeeper.

Sadly, the mundane then returned, with the Germans holding on as they failed to force Shay Given into any kind of action.

Fritz blazed over, as did Podolski when he came on for Gomez in the 64th minute, whilst he also drilled another effort wide.

Ireland pressed in the closing stages, but they never looked like breaching the German defence, leaving the majority of a 67,000 Croke Park crowd bitterly disappointed.

 

 

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