Paul McGrath: Self belief can help us get something from Germany game
I was fortunate enough to play for Irish teams that beat England and Italy and drew with Holland, Spain and Denmark when the latter were European champions.
And the key to all those results is the key to Ireland doing well against Germany on Thursday: We would not accept that we could not get anything out of the game.
Ireland’s football troubles have always come against the Liechtesteins and San Marinos of this world, but put a team in front of us that is supposed to be our superior and immediately the instinct is that we will take them down a peg.
That attitude is what Ireland must carry into their contest against the world champions.
We’ve nothing to lose on Thursday. The pressure is on Germany to win now that they are over the World Cup hangover that cost them points against Poland and Ireland in the group 12 months ago.
They are a super team and will win the Group in the end, they’ve Georgia at home next Sunday.
So Ireland will respect Germany, of course, but the team will not accept that we cannot get anything out of the match.
As it happens, I believe Ireland have already done enough to get to a Euro 2016 play-off – at least.
To me, that defeat in Georgia last month has knocked the stuffing out of the Scottish challenge.
The Jocks famously did us a favour in Bulgaria way back in 1987, and I believe they have done us another one by losing in Tbilisi last month.
But Ireland cannot go into the game on Thursday thinking like the play-off is already secured. The focus must be on what we have to do in terms of keeping possession, pressing the Germans and attacking when we can.
Germany will be as organised and technically sound as ever, but Ireland can draw on the experience of Gelsenkirchen a year ago and indeed on what happened in Cologne in a World Cup qualifier two years ago.
For that latter tie, Giovanni Trapattoni had just been fired and Noel King was in temporary charge.
Despite all the upset in the camp, Ireland had a very good first-half and hit the crossbar in the last minute of the half when only 1-0 down.
Germany eventually won 3-0, but the third goal only came in second-half injury-time.
Of course, last year’s tie was coloured, for Irish eyes, by John O’Shea’s late goal. But even without it Ireland had played well in the game, limiting Germany to a handful of scoring chances. So we have a history of frustrating Germany.
Equally we have a history of getting hammered by Joachim Low’s superb team when we get too clever, such as trying to chase the game in the second-half three years ago at the Aviva.
Rest assured Martin O’Neill will not go there in terms of committing to attack.
Even if Ireland lose on Thursday, we’ll go to Poland next Sunday with our dream still alive.
Now I’m not so confident that Ireland might get something there, but the squad do not want to go to Poland off the back of a thrashing.
That would not be my idea of the best way to approach the match that will decide our Euro 2016 fate.
Could Robbie Keane get a famous goal? Will O’Shea strike again, this time from a set-piece. Might Shay Given have one of those nights when nothing goes by him?
We’ll need something like that to happen if we’re even to get a draw.
It can be done, so Irish football fans should turn up in their thousands on Thursday in the belief that it can.