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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Giles: Big reward in Glasgow waits if Irish give it a go

Shift in mindset could deliver a rich dividend

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 14: John O'Shea of the Republic of Ireland (R) celebrates scoring the equalising goal with Marc Wilson and Stephen Ward of the Republic of Ireland during the EURO 2016 Qualifier between Germany and Republic of Ireland at the Veltins-Arena on October 14, 2014 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)
GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 14: John O'Shea of the Republic of Ireland (R) celebrates scoring the equalising goal with Marc Wilson and Stephen Ward of the Republic of Ireland during the EURO 2016 Qualifier between Germany and Republic of Ireland at the Veltins-Arena on October 14, 2014 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

This week, in the build-up to the game in Gelsenkirchen, I watched the German games against Poland and Scotland and one common theme emerged. Both teams had a right go at Germany.

From Martin O'Neill's point of view and as a more accurate comparison, the game against Scotland was the more relevant because the Germans were at home.

With next month in mind and given the result Ireland got against Germany, that performance and another excellent display in Warsaw on Tuesday night will be examined very closely.

And on the basis of the way Ireland have played in the group so far and what I have seen of Gordon Strachan's team, O'Neill has a job on his hands to come away from Celtic Park with a result.

Scotland had to defend in Dortmund which was to be expected. It was the first game of the series for the world champions on their home patch and that alone must have been a mental challenge for Strachan's players.

But his team reflects the man and Scotland were bright, aggressive and at times creative. So much so that Germany were visibly unsettled. It wasn't in the script that they should pour a bucket of water over the happy memories of Brazil.

Slapstick defending cost Strachan a great result to go with a great performance but he can't legislate for that.

Strachan has done very well with a group of players most people haven't heard of much for their efforts at club level and he underlined a lesson which I must admit, I allowed to slip from my mind. Never prejudge a football match with complete certainty.

Like just about everyone else, I was happy to hand Germany a golden ticket to the top of the group without a game being played and that was wrong.

I didn't know then the impact retirements would have on Jogi Loew's team and just assumed that he would manage the transition pretty seamlessly.

UNDERESTIMATED

I still think Germany will get it right, particularly when Loew has Sebastien Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus back playing for him but I underestimated the job.

As I've always said, success is such a fragile thing and the dynamic inside a dressing room has to be right. At the moment, it is not.

That's the context for most of my observations on the game the other night. Ireland showed in the final 20 minutes that we had the players to trouble Germany when they played in their best positions. That's a fact.

You can have a debate about whether a similar approach from the start might have exposed Germany weakness earlier or opened Ireland up to a hammering but the bottom line is that Ireland troubled Germany when Darron Gibson, Jeff Hendrick and Wes Hoolahan came into the game and by all accounts, with instructions from the manager to have a go.

With that encouragement, Ireland pushed forward and John O'Shea scored a precious goal. In the normal course of events, you want Robbie Keane to be doing that.

The way we played for more than an hour, Keane had no chance of even getting into the kind of position O'Shea found himself in but Ireland needed a goal and the approach changed radically. I think most people who watched the game saw that.

It's my job to tell it as I see it and it would be dishonest to gloss over what were some very, very ropey moments for Ireland, virtually from the kick-off.

Look, I'm sure Martin O'Neill will think he got things spot on but I'm also sure he knows he rode his luck right to the buffers and I wonder if he was sitting in the analyst's chair, which he has done often, what his comments would have been?

I also suspect that with hindsight, O'Neill might have done things differently and perhaps ended up with an even better result.

But that's done now and the focus must be on Scotland. I genuinely believe if we take the route O'Neill took in the first-half against Germany, Ireland could come unstuck in Glasgow.

Put it this way if I was Strachan and I was looking for signs of danger, I wouldn't pay a lot attention to what happened in Gelsenskirchen up to the 71nd minute.

I'd be looking at the Ireland that moved the ball around well and created openings against Germany.

That would worry me more than the hard graft and effort in defence Ireland's players put in for a long stretch of the game. Strachan understands that instinctively and will expect it and budget for it. You always get that from our players. Always.

SPIRIT

The problem for O'Neill is that Strachan has organised his players very well and his group appears to have just a good a spirit as is clearly evident in the Ireland camp.

Neither manager will have need of motivational tools. Keeping feet on the ground will be a bigger issue because the hype surrounding the game will be huge. It will be a night for calm heads, confidence and concentration.

Ireland showed all of those qualities against Germany and I give them great credit for that but for future and particularly Scotland, a shift in mindset could really pay off for O'Neill and his players

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