Germany 1-1 Republic of Ireland

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Of all the people you would expect to keep the World Champions mired in a post World Cup malaise, SUnderland defender John O'Shea is unlikely to be one of them. But he did just that with a last-gasp strike for the Republic of Ireland against Germany on Tuesday evening.

Captaining the 'Boys in Green', as their fans call them, on his 100th international cap against the reigning World Cup winners was probably special enough for the former Manchester United defender, so it was unlikely he could have dreamed of a more emotional ending to the game.

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Toni Kroos had given Die Mannschaft the lead in the 71st minute with a nice finish from 20 years out and that was expected to be that. Jogi Löw's team had looked laboured but dominated throughout, so the goal was met with relief by the crowd in Gelsenkirchen.

However, Ireland are a famously spirited side and to their credit did not sit back to limited the damage once they had fallen behind. They got their reward in the 94th minute when O'Shea got in front of Mats Hummels on the end of Jeff Hendrick's centre and guided the ball past Manuel Neuer.

It was a crushing defeat, in the sense that it could not be ignored as the previous two performances were

Eyes were smiling

Irish fans at the Veltins Arena, understandably, erupted in delight and the noise of their jubilation echoed around the big stadium where Bundesliga club Schalke 04 play their home games. The silence of the Germany fans was stark, as the significance of that goal was more than just the loss of two points.

Sunday night had seen the Germans fall to a 2-0 defeat against Poland in Warsaw - the first time they had lost to their not quite so distinguished neighbours. It was a crushing defeat, in the sense that it could not be ignored as the previous two performances were.

A 4-2 thrashing at the hands of Argentina, their first match since they defeated the South Americans in Rio to claim their fourth world title, was dismissed as nothing serious and as a slight hangover from the summer success.

However, there were signs in the 2-1 win against Scotland in Dortmund that all was not right and Gordon Strachan's side could easily have got something out of the game. Now this latest result will have convinced many of those previously worrying that the hangover has turned into a full-blown crisis.

Lost legacy

The retirements from international duty of Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose were a first problem to address, but injuries have piled up since then. Mesut Özil, Andre Schürrle, Sami Khedira, Marco Reus and Bastian Schweinsteiger were all forced to miss the match.

Löw has never quite faced a challenge like this

What is, arguably, most problematic is the lack of a natural out-and-out centre-forward. Thomas Müller is a fine player, but playing at the point of the attack will not get the best out him. The Bayern Munich forward thrives on the space create by the movements of strikers ahead of him.

Tough times

Löw has never quite faced a challenge like this since his time in charge of Germany and he is fortunate that there are still seven eminently winnable matches to come. However, being matched by Ireland and almost matched by Scotland will give those side confidence for when the world champions come visiting.

Testing times maybe, but the quality will out and the Germans have it in good depth.

Roy Keane
Toni Kroos
Germany Football

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