herald

Saturday 19 January 2019

King believes his U21s will test German side that's worth millions

THE LAST time Ireland's U21 side played a qualifier in Germany, they ended up on the wrong end of an 8-0 scoreline back in 1993 and set a record for our worst-ever defeat in a competitive international at any level.

Noel King's current crop of U21s face up to a very stiff challenge in Germany tonight, taking on the Germans in the final game of a qualifying campaign which is already over as far as Ireland are concerned.

But boss King feels that a new-look Ireland U21 squad, picked with fresh faces ahead of the next qualifying campaign, will not fear the prospect of facing a German squad coached by World Cup legend Horst Hrubesch which is brimful of stunning talent.

"It's a challenge, no doubt about that," King told The Herald ahead of the game in Essen (5pm Irish time).

"They have World Cup medal winners in their squad, some serious players. Jonas Hoffman is in the squad. Emre Can, who has gone to Liverpool, is there as well.

"They are worth millions, this squad of German players and they beat us heavily in Sligo (4-0), although I didn't think the result reflected our performance.

"There are risks involved but the benefits far outweigh the risks. I will learn, the players will learn and get some good experience. It's not dangerous for us but it makes it more difficult."

King has been in sticky situations away from home like this before but come through, notably a stunning 4-2 win for his U21 side in a qualifier away to a very talented Italy side in 2012. The Dubliner will no doubt reference that win, due in no small part to a young Robbie Brady, in his pre-match team talk but he feels the squad have the ability to deliver.

"The players are fully aware of the magnitude of the task, they are aware of Germany and how good they are. They are young, enthusiastic and talented, they are itching to test themselves against Germany," says King.

"We know that the German senior team are world champions, We know their U19s won the European Championships.

"But our lads are also ambitious to be good players and be successful in their own right, and I have to encourage that."

King lost the services of Bradley Lewis and Brian Lenihan due to injury in the build-up to the game but players with first team experience like Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Tommie Hoban (Watford) and Conor Wilkinson (Bolton) will feature.

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