The Republic of Ireland play host to Germany on Friday night at the Aviva Stadium looking for a positive result to follow up their nervy win over Kazakhstan last month.
After falling behind to a first-half strike against the Kazakhs, Ireland appeared to be heading to an opening World Cup qualifying defeat against one of the minnows of European football, but two goals in the last two minutes salvaged Irish pride and covered up a multitude of flaws in the team.
Chief among these flaws is the side’s inherent negativity and manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s reluctance to field promising young talent such as James McClean, Seamus Coleman and Shane Long from the start.
This policy clearly worked well in their successful qualification for Euro 2012 as they only conceded seven goals in their ten games (the same number as Germany), but when they got to the tournament the plan unravelled disastrously against high-quality opposition. When they took on Croatia, Spain and Italy they managed to score only once and conceded nine and were widely seen as the poorest side in the competition.
Trapattoni will surely point to the recent 4-1 friendly win over Oman as a sign of improvement in the attacking department, but such a result over a nation whose most famous player currently plays in goal for Wigan is unlikely to strike any fear into Germany’s defence when they travel to Dublin.
No surprise, then, that the shortest odds on an Irish goalscorer being offered by bwin are 3/1 on Shane Long, making him the ninth most fancied player to score, behind seven Germans.
The former Reading hitman has been in fine form for West Brom, scoring twice and assisting two more this season, and he could be worth a small play, considering Germany have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven games.
While Ireland are struggling to shake off the shackles of their negative playing style, Germany have no such problems as they have scored 22 times already in 2012 and have potential goalscorers littered throughout their wonderfully talented squad.
Chief among the usual suspects is Bayern Munich forward Mario Gomez, who managed 40 goals in all competitions last term, but luckily for Ireland the 27-year-old will miss Friday’s clash through injury.
Although Gomez is out of action, German coach Joachim Löw has plenty of other attacking talent to call upon, including Borussia Dortmund’s new star, Marco Reus. The £17 million summer signing from Borussia Monchengladbach has played a key role for the German champions this season, scoring six goals in nine games, including four in the last four games.
Reus’ form has not just been confined to the yellow shirts of Dortmund, either, as he has also scored his first three goals for the national team during this calendar year and sealed a place in Die Mannschaft’s starting XI with his energetic and creative displays.
The youngster is priced as 3/2 third favourite to score in Dublin, but you can find better odds of 11/2 on him striking the first goal of the game, as he did in the recent 2-1 win over neighbours Austria and in Dortmund’s 1-1 draw away to Man City in the Champions League.
Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Reus to open the scoring would return an impressive £130 if successful.
The other obvious threat that the Germans have at their disposal is Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Őzil, who has become one of the most admired and feared creative players in world football in recent seasons.
An apparent weakening of his relationship with club manager Jose Mourinho this season has meant he hasn’t hit top form yet for Los Blancos, but for Germany he has been on fire. Őzil has scored four goals in Germany’s last four games and as a result is priced at short odds of 2/1 to grab a goal against Ireland.
You can also find equally short odds on the likes of Miroslav Klose (evens) and Lukas Podolski (7/5) scoring, which just sums up what a challenge the Irish will have on their hands come Friday evening.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our World Cup qualifier odds.