Tonight's qualifier against Germany will be the first time since 1999 that an Irish side will start a competitive match without Shay Given, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne or Robbie Keane in the side.

Yesterday morning Keane joined an injury list which has claimed five members of Giovanni Trapattoni's favoured team.

In addition, although the 73-year-old was coy on the matter, he appears to be ready to abandon the 4-4-2 formation which served him so well through the early years of his reign, but which has grown increasingly tired more recently.

However, the message to his players ahead of what is a daunting Group C encounter was much the same as it has been for the last four and a half years.

Trapattoni said: "I will be proud if we can win or draw because I have studied particularly what Germany have tried to do, and we must do what we can to contain them.

"They have the quality of [Thomas] Muller, [Mesut] Ozil, [Miroslav] Klose, [Mario] Gomez, [Mario] Gotze, [Lukas] Podolski - unfortunately, we don't have that kind of player.

"But we have our qualities and with our qualities, we can confront Germany.

"I am proud of this team. We have achieved very important results with our quality, with our attitude. That's what we can be proud of."

"We can change, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. I have to be sure that the system is available and that I can change immediately if I need to" - Giovanni Trapattoni

It felt like something of a watershed moment as Trapattoni announced his team, which did not include the names of any of the quartet of senior men who have been the backbone of Ireland's team for over a decade.

There could be a significant shift too in terms of system with the manager initially naming his line-up, which included Everton's Seamus Coleman at right-back for the first time in a competitive game in a 4-3-3 formation.

But he then muddied the waters, saying: "I have not changed the system. I said we can play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. We have to see what happens in the game.

"I can't wait until we concede a goal. After, it is very difficult. I have to put out a team that can change after 30 minutes if necessary."

The sensible money is on Trapattoni starting with 4-3-3 after he and assistant Marco Tardelli have spent the last few days talking about the possibility of using a third central midfielder to man-mark Ozil.

But asked if he would try to do that, he said: "I think it's impossible. I was a player and I marked famous players - Pele, Eusebio, Johan Cruyff - but there are players it is impossible to mark.

"Ozil is a player who is very difficult to mark."

If Trapattoni does use a three-man midfield, that would mean fielding just one out-and-out striker, a role which would have been occupied by Keane had he been fit.

That represents another bone of contention for those who believe whatever the 32-year-old's estimable qualities, they are not best suited to the rigors of battling with robust defenders and holding the ball up to allow reinforcements to arrive.

Either Stoke's Jon Walters or Nottingham Forest's Simon Cox will now be asked to take up the baton with the other lining up in a wide position, something the former has done regularly for his club and the latter for his country in the recent past.

Whether or not Trapattoni had come to the conclusion that change was required of his own volition, or whether he had simply been beaten into submission by repeated reminders of his side's submission to the likes of Russia, Spain and Italy in recent years, was a moot point.

But at the end of a week during which rumours linking him with the vacant manager's job at Blackburn led to speculation over his continued presence in his current post, the 73-year-old cut a defiant figure.

He said: "In the last three years with Ireland, we are proud of what we have done. Without France, we could have been at the World Cup.

"But now we have changed the team and brought in younger players - this team is very, very young.

"One eye is on the result and one eye is on the ranking. Three years ago, our ranking was far away from where it is now. We have improved."

Ireland XI to play Germany: Westwood, Coleman, O’Shea (captain), O’Dea, Ward, Andrews, Fahey, McCarthy, McGeady, Walters, Cox.