Not so great expectations

“Three-nil is better than the last time we played them,” says Aiden McGeady with a thin smile, as he searches for the positives from Ireland’s latest encounter with a Germany side he reckons is “right up there” with the very best in world football.

Not so great expectations

“We created quite a few chances and [David] Forde had a very good game as well to keep the score down,” he says of Friday’s defeat in Cologne. “It could have been 3-2 or 4-2 or whatever. I don’t think we can be too disappointed. We had a game plan to play defensively — that’s the way the manager wanted to play. Losing to Germany, there’s no real shame in that.”

Germany, along with Spain, Argentina and Brazil will be the big beasts contesting the business end of next year’s World Cup finals, he reckons, but he also likes the look of Belgium.

“They’re a very strong team and a young team, as well, like Germany,” he observes. “The future is looking very bright for them.”

Of course, of rather more concern to those who will be in the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night — not to mention those who will make a point of staying away — is the much less certain outlook for Irish football.

McGeady thinks the FAI are right to take their time about choosing a successor to Giovanni Trapattoni but, whoever takes over, he believes they will have to contend with an excessive burden of expectation.

“We have the players to do well but possibly the expectation from outside is a little bit too much at times,” he reflects. “Every campaign we’re expected to qualify and I just don’t think that’s realistic at the minute. Look at the teams we’ve played recently — Germany, Sweden, Austria, they were better teams than us — though Sweden and Austria probably weren’t far better. They were more consistent over the campaign than we were.

“I have a friend at Spartak who plays for Sweden [Kim Kallstrom] and he actually said, ‘to be fair Sweden against Ireland was a sort of barren game but we had Ibrahimovich which changed it for us — and you don’t have that’. Which is right. He said it takes a player like him to change a game, and he did that in Dublin... and Austria had Alaba, another top player who is only young.”

So are people’s expectations of Ireland unrealistic? “I think so, at times. The last four or five years I think we have been spoilt a bit by the fact we got so close to the World Cup and qualified for the Euros. Okay, we didn’t play very well at the Euros but we were in a very tough group. And we still qualified. We probably outdid ourselves. And now, again, it’s ‘we should be qualifying for the World Cup’.

“I don’t think it is realistic. No one in the team is playing at a top club in one of the top leagues.

“We’re further down the chain in the Premiership and Championship, and further afield for myself and a couple of other players. We’re not England, we’re not Germany, we’re not Spain.”

With the exit of Trapattoni, of course, there is now a huge clamour for Ireland to play in a more liberated, expansive way but McGeady points out that, although restrictive, the Italian’s approach did enjoy significant success.

“At times you could say, yes, he could have let players be more expansive or expressive, but that’s the way he played and people maybe got too much of a good thing with qualifying and getting close to tournaments — the last time we’d qualified was 2002. He did come in and change things but after two or three years people were probably starting to maybe get a little bit tired and a lot of people said to me [it was boring to watch’ and stuff. And at times it was not the most fun to play in but what can you do? You’re a footballer and that’s your job, and the way he set his team out ended up more often than not getting results.”

So can this team be more expansive and creative? “It all depends on what the new manager wants to do,” he says. “We could probably end up playing two centre-backs wide, two full backs pushing on and losing and still getting absolutely hammered by all youse and everyone on TV. You can never really win. It is probably a bit of a poisoned chalice the manager’s job over here, same in England as well. You can’t please everyone.”

Although McGeady is still getting the odd twinge from a dodgy knee, he is very much back in the hunt for a starting place for Ireland tomorrow now that he has a handful of games for Spartak under his belt. And, with Kazakhstan the visitors, he is anticipating quite a contrast from Friday in Cologne.

“It will probably be the complete opposite, where we are going to be like Germany playing against Ireland and we’ll have the ball and they’ll be defending. So it is a totally different challenge and it’s up to us to break them down, like Germany did against us.”

Only tomorrow night will tell if that is too great an expectation.

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