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How Ireland stunned Germany: the players' view

Re-live last night’s game through the words of John O’Shea, Robbie Keane and a host of others.

IT WAS A moment that will live long in the memory. John O’Shea’s last-gasp equaliser against Germany last night is now forever engrained in the annals of Irish football history. That time when the unlikely happened.

In the backyard of the world champions, a plucky, spirited and determined display got its reward. Here in their own words, the players take us through the before, during and after of an unforgettable night.    

TeamgroupFinal Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Pre-game:

Robbie Keane: We’ve certainly had belief since the campaign started that we were capable of going anywhere and getting something. We certainly believed that all week. As soon as the Gibraltar game finished, the lads were talking about it and saying “we can go there and get a result – we’ve got a good opportunity to get something out of this”. And we got it.

John O’Shea: There was a bit of pressure on us because we had to get something from the game.

Stephen Ward: We had a real belief coming here. I don’t think many people outside of Ireland would’ve believed we could come here and get a result but we felt after the first two games that we were in a rich vein of form and the management and staff have really instilled a confidence and a spirit within us.

John O’Shea: In the warm-up, we didn’t do our usual thing. We normally do a little possession beforehand. Roy said to us – “We’ve done our work, we’ve done our preparation, just get your heads focused. Relax, enjoy it but also be aware it’s going to be a lot of hard work.”

First-half:

In the opening minutes, Erik Durm ominously thumps a strike against David Forde’s crossbar while Antonio Rüdiger also has a decent opportunity from a header. Late in the period, after a careless pass is intercepted, Forde races from his area but he inexplicably surrenders possession. From the resulting German cross, Ireland are able to scramble clear in spite of their unguarded net. It’s an inauspicious start.   

David Meyler:  They (Germany) don’t have bad players, do they? They’re world champions for a reason. They like to dominate games and keep the ball. We watched clips of them against Poland and they did the exact same but just couldn’t take their chances. A few times in the first half they had a couple of chances but they didn’t take them and if you don’t, you give other teams opportunities.

Glenn Whelan: The first half was about staying in the game and to give us credit, they didn’t have too many chances. I think Fordey might have had one save to make.

Aiden McGeady and Erik Durm Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Stephen Ward: It’s the one thing we spoke about all week. The mental side of these games is very difficult — they have players that can hurt you with one pass but our shape was excellent. They didn’t get in behind us too many times or create too many opportunities where they were left one-v-one with David (Forde). We defended well, got bodies in the way. It’s mentally tough but we prepared all week for it.

John O’Shea: The midfield lads — the shift they put in in that first half in particular was amazing. It was a little reward for them that I was able to get a goal in the end.

Though not able to offer much offensively, the Irish get to the half-time interval without conceding. Though many observers would’ve felt differently, the players knew the game-plan was working: 

Half-time:

John O’Shea: Martin O’Neill talked about the spirit that’s in the group and how it was going to be needed. But that spirit will only get you so far — that you need that bit of quality too, that composure at the right time.

Stephen Ward: We said at half-time that we wanted to go and make something of the game which we did.

Robbie Keane: The one thing you have to do is keep yourself in the game. Keep yourself in the game and you’ve got an opportunity.

Second-half:

David Forde saves Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

After the interval, the Germans raise their game and test Forde on a number of occasions – Podolski and Bellarabi both fired shots on goal while the former also takes a tumble in the penalty area and desperately sought a penalty. Forde was also called into action to make a decent stop from a Toni Kroos effort.   

Stephen Ward: You have to make your own luck and defend well as a team. Fordey is there to make saves and thankfully we’ve got him in great form. But there’s not many chances I’d look back on and say it was clear-cut – where they’ve got to score. There were a lot of shots from outside the ‘D’, from tight angles.

But with 20 minutes to go, Toni Kroos pops up on the edge of the area and arrows a low strike towards goal that finds the net via the inside of the near post.  

Glenn Whelan: I think the boy Kroos has a little chance in football! But they have top players, not just the midfielders. We knew we weren’t going to have a lot of the ball but showed great character to get a result. It’s the Irish spirit, the Irish passion — you keep going until the death. If it was 2 or 3, heads would’ve have slumped but being 1-0 down, we knew we still had a chance.

Jeff Hendrick, John O'Shea and Darron Gibson dejected after Germany score The Irish players look dejected after Toni Kroos scores to put Germany in front. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Stephen Ward: A lot of shots were from the edge of the box. If they score from there, sometimes you just have to hold your hands up. I thought as a team, we defended outstandingly. You know they’re going to have the majority of the possession but our game-plan worked really well. We felt we’d get chances and we had one or two towards the end. The most pleasing thing is the response after going 1-0 down. We could have hung our heads and been valiant losers.

John O’Shea: I think that’s when we played our best stuff, when we went behind. We had to take a chance, we had to go for it, we had to try and get something from it.

The last 15 minutes:

Before conceding the goal, O’Neill had made two substitutions. The injured Whelan was replaced by Jeff Hendrick while Keane made way for Darron Gibson. After going behind, O’Neill made his final switch and brought in Wes Hoolahan for Stephen Quinn. 

David Meyler: It’s a squad game. Jeff, Darron and Wes played fantastically well the other night (against Gibraltar) and they’re left out against Germany. Then Quinny, Glenn and Johnny Walters come in and did fantastic. We’re all in it together. The three lads came on and it’s a 14 man game. We need as many as we can. It’s tough going against a team like that and we’re just delighted we could bring on players that could influence the game.

Stephen Ward and Karim Bellarabi Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Jeff Hendrick: My instructions were to hold and defend when they had the ball but we were a goal down and we needed to go for it. The later it got, the more risks we had to take.

David Meyler: It’s a great Irish tradition – the belief we have. We’re not as big a country as some others but we have great belief in the squad and it’s there in abundance. He (O’Neill) has drilled it into us – that we’ve to believe in ourselves.

Glenn Whelan: It’s a new manager coming in with new beliefs, different character and obviously it’s different for us – we know we’ve got an Irishman who has the passion. He’s come in with his own ideas, his own backroom staff and they’ve given everyone belief that we can do something.

Injury-time:   

The Irish rally in the final stages. Hoolahan looks set to level when a cross is squared for him in the area but Durm flings himself at the strike and blocks superbly. It feels like the one ‘real’ opportunity to get something has passed. Until…the 3rd minute of injury time.

Jeff Hendrick: It’s not often Wes puts a bad ball in! Obviously, it was over-hit. So, it was about trying to get to the back-post. All we needed was the ball in the box and then we had a chance. Thankfully I just put it back across into an area and John was there to tap it in.     

Jeff Hendrick crosses the ball back for John O'Shea to score 14/10/2014 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

John O’Shea: Willo (Marc Wilson) had just gone up before me and obviously the ball hadn’t come in. He had just dropped back a bit. I think we had a chance for a long throw. David Meyler is a long way off Rory Delap – I know that! He was barely reaching the box! But he tried a couple of long balls and to be fair he put a good one in – Jonny (Walters) got a nice touch and we had no one running across. And that was really frustrating because the wide lads on the other side should’ve been anticipating, trying to get the ball in. So, thankfully I just stayed up there, anticipating.

Stephen Ward: I thought that in the second-half we deserved a point especially the way we responded after going 1-0 down. When it’s that late, you’ve got to get bodies in the box and you need a big, tall centre-half to nick one or flick one on. Thankfully he was in the right place at the right time. At that stage of the game, I thought we were the ones in the ascendency and looked the more likely to score.

Robbie Keane: It all happened so quickly. I know one thing – Jeff Hendrick’s ball – to be running backwards and turn in the last second and put a ball back in like that –  great ball, great finish.

John O'Shea celebrates scoring Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

John O’Shea: I was thinking Jeff was going to take a touch initially so I was thinking to just get across the German defender. He probably thought Jeff was going to take a touch as well so I was able to anticipate it a little bit quicker and thankfully stick it in the corner.

The aftermath:

David Meyler: We’ve done ourselves proud tonight. We’ve done our country proud, families, everyone. It’s a fantastic achievement but it’s gone now and we have to move on. We’ve got Scotland in a month’s time and if we don’t put in a performance like we have in the last three, then it’s no good getting a point here.

David Meyler celebrates after the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

John O’Shea: Momentum is a big word for us. We have to take a lot of confidence from tonight. Roy joked in the dressing-room afterwards – ‘Wait until we get a good performance and see how we celebrate’!

Glenn Whelan: These feelings, especially in an Ireland jersey, haven’t come around a lot of late so you have to cherish them. It was the performance we needed for ourselves in the dressing room to kick on and have the belief  we can do something in this campaign.

John O’Shea: To do it on the night in question, the amount of caps I’ve achieved and to do it in the last minute against Germany away from home, it’s very, very special. The lads were trying to jump all over me and I was trying to knock them off and enjoy the moment with the fans! My celebrations always need a bit of work — I don’t score enough to improve!

‘What’s the point of sitting in, losing 1 – 0 and feeling as if you’ve a moral victory?’ – O’Neill

Opinion: Robbie Keane has been a great player, but it’s time to give others a chance

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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