Low spoils King’s high

As Germany reached Brazil, it should not be forgotten that someone else reached a career high. Noel King can now always say that he managed his country. That it came against the three-time world champions only deepened the distinction.

Low spoils King’s high

The other side of that was that the Germans played with many of the qualities of such a side, and the manner they toyed with Ireland was often tough viewing.

The final score, however, was not especially difficult reading. This was respectable in some senses, not least the fact the margin of victory was not as large as last year’s 6-1. How much of that was down to the Germans is key, though. This did feel like they could have had another few if they wanted.

Ultimately, these weren’t the circumstances for King to put anything like his own stamp on the side or try and play much football. Germany are of such quality that all the team could really do was lie back and think of Ireland.

To his credit, however, the interim manager did attempt to exacerbate the effects of sitting deep. Although his initial team selection did raise many eyebrows, it was a distinct attempt to try something different and thereby raise Ireland’s hopes of avoiding utter decimation too.

Even if the decision to play Glenn Whelan as a holding midfielder on the right wing was mistaken, it was undeniably correct to try and do something extra to break the waves.

Contrast it, for example, to Giovanni Trapattoni’s startlingly open 4-4-2 in the 4-0 defeat to Spain during Euro 2012. For all that, the Germans did still repeatedly succeed in moving the Irish out of position, too, Darron Gibson displayed the benefit of that extra body there in the eighth minute with a solid interception.

Of course, there’s no denying the main reason Ireland did not get completely swept away was because the Germans were at exhibition pace. It said an awful lot that Jogi Low chose this game to experiment with a false nine. The movement of Mesut Ozil predictably created some prize moments. With one of his first touches, the playmaker found Philipp Lahm with a divine back-heel around Kevin Doyle.

As galling as it was for Ireland, this was a display where you couldn’t but admire the beauty of some of the German play. Freed from pressure, they stroked the ball about delightfully. There seemed some moments when they were experimenting with what they could do with the ball, let alone their formation and framework.

For one extended period during the first half, the German attackers were chipping the ball to each other, as if attempting to see who could come up with the most audacious effort. The contrast with the Irish players exhausting every bit of energy to just keep up was stark.

Very quickly, it was easy to see why Sami Khedira had been so confident — if not downright arrogant and dismissive — on the day before the game. Then, the Real Madrid midfielder said that they wanted “to score many goals”.

That didn’t quite happen. Khedira did at least live up to his words. Within 12 minutes, the midfielder had opened the scoring, thanks to a deflection off Ciaran Clark. It could have been even more by half-time had David Forde not got more significant touches of his own. The goalkeeper palmed away an Andre Schurrle header and then a stinging Khedira drive.

The source of so many such moves came from the right flank, as Lahm roamed free. Here, King’s attempts to quieten him with an out-of-position Doyle didn’t work.

Nor did Anthony Stokes’ attempts to play the ball out of the Irish half in the build-up to Khedira’s goal. This, of course, was the grand issue with Trapattoni and it’s easy to imagine him seeing that kind of move in that kind of area and shaking his head.

In truth, it’s a difficult one to discuss. In order to even start to try playing more expansive and technical football, there is going to be an inevitable learning curve, which will only accentuate the risks. Here, Ireland were inevitably punished.

Far more culpable was Stokes’ finishing. The initial selection of the Celtic striker was one of King’s most conspicuous departures from Trapattoni’s time, beyond the return of Andy Reid.

While the Italian ignored Stokes, there was a suspicion he was just short the quality required at this level. Obviously, it would be unfair to draw conclusions after one game, but Stokes badly snatched at his big chance just before half-time.

It wasn’t the only chance Ireland and Stokes had, and a goal at that point would have put a rather different spin on Khedira’s somewhat patronising comment about how the side has “many tricks and needles to upset us and maybe even score”.

As it was, the Germans hit the next goal, Schurrle himself spinning beautifully to slot home the strike that clinched the win and his country’s place in Brazil.

Germany continued to attack but the avalanche never came. This was not the fierce destruction many feared. Instead, Ozil perhaps appropriately signed the game off with a deft chip. It was a fitting touch.

King now has a steadier footing to put a different stamp on the team ahead of a very different game.

Germany, meanwhile, were just different class.

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