Lacklustre displays, jaded tactics and a growing concern for the future of Irish football dogged the now departed Giovanni Trapattoni throughout the entire campaign. Now, with a couple of matches remaining for the Boys in Green, there sees seems to be little to gain aside from a small amount of pride.
However, for some, there is more than honour at stake with this tie.
So, with only a few hours remaining until Ireland kick off against Germany in Cologne, it’s time for Back Page Football to take a look at three Irish players who will be eager to prove themselves on the big stage.
Having found a way back into the Ireland squad after several years in the wilderness, Andy Reid will be vying to put in a good performance on Friday should he make an appearance. Granted, his offensive threat may be suffocated for large portions by a top German midfield, but the 31-year-old could add a cutting edge from dead-ball situations that Ireland have been lacking in recent times.
Expect Noel King’s side to attempt to pass the ball and take on the Germans whenever possible in an effort to take the match to the hosts, and don’t be surprised if Reid is integral to any of our forages forward. The Irishman has been in impressive form for his club, so if he transfers some of that over while he’s on international duty, he should do enough to warrant inclusion in the next manager’s plans.
This fixture may not mean much in terms of qualification, but it’s a chance for the Nottingham Forest player to shine. Don’t be surprised if he churns out a bit of magic on occasion.
We’ll need it.
Making his international debut on Friday night is 32-year-old Damien Delaney who should use the tie as his opportunity to muscle his way into the international set up on a more permanent basis. Despite the fact that Crystal Palace have leaked more than their fair share of goals already this season, it would be unfair to single Delaney out for criticism. In fact, having faced Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, as well as an in-form Swansea, Delaney has already faced some of the best offences around.
Friday evening will see him face yet another talented troupe of attackers.
However, if anything he’ll be unfazed by it all, having become accustomed to such exemplary displays of offensive creativity. Combine that with the fact that Ireland have nothing to lose and it becomes clear that Delaney should put in a spirited, level-headed performance.
Whether or not it’s enough to keep the home crowd quiet or not, is yet to be seen.
With talisman and captain Robbie Keane out injured, Noel King looks to have turned to Anthony Stokes to lead the line. As reported by the Irish Independent, his recent impressive displays for Celtic in Europe have endeared him to the interim boss due to his ability to combine meaningful attacks with solid, defensive play.
Filling the boots of Ireland’s all-time record goalscorer won’t be an easy feat, however without the burden of needing a win, or indeed expecting one, Stokes should prove more than capable of rising to the challenge and causing Joachim Loew’s side a few problems.
After all, he’s already netted five times in the Scottish EPL.
Although he may not get many chances against Philip Lahm and company, this is a big chance he must seize with both hands if he wants to play a key role in Ireland’s qualification hope for France 2016.
Prediction: Germany to win, but don’t expect a repeat of the 6-1 loss Ireland suffered at home. Ireland are coming out fighting and with a new-found sense of self this time.