Martin O’Neill has dismissed the theory, fanciful though it may have been in the first place, a sated German side, still celebrating its recent achievements, can be caught napping when the sides meet in October.
The world champions host the Irish in Gelsenkirchen in the third round of qualifying games for the 2016 European Championships and O’Neill believes there will be no slipping of standards on the part of the recently crowned world champions.
“They will be strong favourites to win the group,” said the former Celtic manager. “They are the world champions and by the time they get round to starting the competition again the players will have holidayed and I don’t think they are the type to rest on their laurels.
“I feel that they will want to push on again. You talk about (Philipp) Lahm retiring, they have lots of players to take those places. They are the best team in our group but that doesn’t mean you just give up those matches, pack it in.”
O’Neill’s views on the Germans were echoed by his assistant manager Roy Keane.
The pair were appearing on Today FM’s The Last Word to mark the introduction of Club Ireland, the FAI’s new multi-year premium level seat package in association with 3.
It was an at times light-hearted interview which ran for 90 minutes last evening with O’Neill and Keane doing a tidy line in one-liners, but the main man finished the segment by stressing his determination for the job ahead.
“The serious stuff starts soon,” he said in relation to a campaign that begins with a tricky visit to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on September 7.
A home banker against Gibraltar follows before trips to Germany and Glasgow.
O’Neill gave his assessment on the World Cup, which he covered from Brazil for ITV, and, though he felt there was “no outstanding team” in it, he clearly believes Germany to be a step above Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar in Group D.
O’Neill has also watched the two games Ireland played against Germany in the last qualifying games, conceding nine goals and scoring just once, and has noted how dangerous they are when they take the lead and force sides to commit forward.
Brazil felt the full brunt of that in the World Cup semi-final and, though the Derryman believes any side claiming points against Joachim Low’s men will be in bonus territory, that will be far easier said than done.
“It’s going to be tough, I know that,” said Keane who has recently agreed to assist Paul Lambert at Aston Villa as well. “When you look at it, the strength they have in depth, the players they are picking from, they were one of the best prepared (in Brazil).
“They have the money, they built their own training ground over there, an excellent coach and players who have been playing in big games every season: the Bayern lads, for Real Madrid, in Champions League semi-finals and finals.
“That experience, you can’t buy that. That has been a big problem for the Irish team over the last few years. A lot of our lads haven’t played in the big games: a lot of them haven’t been playing in Premiership matches but lower down in the leagues.”
Keane once questioned the ambitions of Irish players long before he took over as his country’s assistant manager and his reply when asked about his on the current squad was similarly themed last night. Money, he believes, has curbed appetites in the modern game.
“You can have a mediocre career and become a millionaire. I don’t just mean with the Irish players. To me the ambition is to always try to get to the very top, whether it be with Man United to win trophies, and you get your rewards. It’s not the players’ fault.
“It’s the clubs and the TV money so players can become very wealthy and say ‘well, I don’t really need to? I can play for a Championship team and be a millionaire so why do I want to kill myself to try and get in the Premiership?’ I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.”
Yet, if the World Cup has shown us anything this summer it is the realisation that countries don’t necessarily need players to be playing with the biggest and best clubs to make an imprint on the game’s global stages.
Costa Rica, the USA and Algeria proved that.
“When you are there it is almost as if you can throw the shackles off and go and play with a bit of freedom as one of the smaller sides with no real expectation,” said O’Neill.
“Qualification for France is the be all and end all. It will be difficult, but if we can get there, you don’t know, you might end up in quarter-final or a semi-final. Nothing is impossible when you are there. Getting there is the difficulty.”
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