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Thursday 8 December 2016

Germany boss Joachim Löw: 'Ireland are more imaginative than Scotland'

Germany manager Joachim Löw is pictured during a press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin
Germany manager Joachim Löw is pictured during a press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin

There's a distance of just 1700km between Dublin and Berlin, not the longest trek in the world. Still, it's hard to know what they make of us over there in Germany, apart from the cliches of Johnny Logan and Kerrygold being popular.

We don't know of Apres Match and Gunter Grun's depiction of us as "pixieheads" had made it into the national psyche.

But you get the feeling that's how they think of us. A minor irritant that's hard to understand or even care about.

Yesterday, in a plush hotel in leafy Dublin 4, German coach Joachim Löw spoke to the assembled media for over 20 minutes, to preview tonight's game at the nearby stadium in Lansdowne Road. But you'd be hard-pressd to guess that he had a game against a formidable opponent to talk about.

In his address, Löw didn't mention a single Irish player by name - his backroom team may have done their work on analysis of the opposition but it's hard to imagine Löw stressing too much over whether Paul McShane or Richard Keogh played in central defence.

In fact he mentioned Ireland just three times in all the time he spoke to the media. He spent more time going over the fallout from the weekend Bundesliga game between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund (where eight of his players were involved in a controversial match, a 5-1 win for Bayern) than he did in dicussing Martin O'Neill's mob.

He batted away a question about the possible impact his compatriot Jurgen Klopp can make in the English Premier League, saying "there are comparisons you can make between Dortmund and Liverpool in terms of the supporter culture of both clubs. If they can work it out, he can be great addition to any team" while he also spoke about the fact that a diagnosis of Alzheimher's for Germany legend Gerd Muller has been made public.

But Ireland? Jogi's not stressed. The road to France is in sight, qualification can be secured tonight with a game to spare but he sees Ireland more as a side who can defend well and just to be broken down, more than seeing than as a top-class outfit who can pose a real threat to his Germany.

Famous

"I think Ireland are famous for defending very well, strongly and physically and if you look at past encounters with them you don't always get a 6-1 result, on many occasions it's been a match of attrition," said Löw, playing to the home crowd of pixieheads to a large extent, as Germany did beat Ireland 9-1 on aggregate in the qualifying campaign on the path to World Cup success and the only attrition was directed, one-way, at Ireland.

"Physically they are stronger than Scotland, and as far as attacking goes, they play more imaginatively so we have to look out for that. They know how to make life hard. They are robust, physical and score on the counter, I also know Ireland have all to play for and can still qualify directly while they also have a excellent chance to come third.

"Like Scotland, they will fight to the last minute but having said that we will take the game to our opponents and impose our own philosophy."

That's the basic attitude of the Germans and the basis of their approach to tonight's game. They will have the ball for far more of the game than the home side. If they turn on the style, they will leave Ireland in their wake, as they did on their previous visit to Dublin, that 6-1 hammering which was the beginning of the end for Giovanni Trapatton as Ireland manager.

If they come here with a softly-softly approach, limiting their attacks to do the bare minimum, they could settle for a draw. Just as they did at this stage of the competition in the qualifiers for Euro 2008, when Germany brought a large band of supporters to Croke Park to face Steve Staunton's Ireland, needing - and taking - only a point to seal qualification, in a dull 0-0 draw.

They don't need to worry too much about Ireland because of the talent at their disposal, a squad packed full of players who play for the top clubs in the top leagues, while the Ireland XI tonight is likely to contain three men who have never played in the top flight.

Ireland's problems tonight were created beyond Martin O'Neill's control: injuries to Séamus Coleman, Marc Wilson, Ciarán Clark and Stephen Quinn; lack of first team football for Shay Given.

Germany's issues stem from within, with some dissent in the air in the aftermath of Bayern's 5-1 trouncing of Dortmund last weekend. But even the fact that the game was played on Sunday, limiting the amount of time that Löw had to work with his players, didn't stress the man they call Jogi. "No, I wasn't irritated by it or didn't work myself into a state - though it would have been nice for one day of additional rest," he says.

Not irritated, not stressed. This man has simply come to Dublin to get a job done and move on.

Ireland v Germany tonight, Aviva Stadium (ko 7.45)

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