Within thirty seconds of the kick-off in Stuttgart last night, the butterflies kicked in. I only get them when the Irish football team play; none of the club teams I support evoke such a sensation. It is strange as I am not particularly patriotic (and sometimes criticise Ireland to a degree that many would consider treasonous) and I could not give a rat's arse about how Ireland do in any sport other than football. Robbie Keane's near miss after two minutes settled them a bit but by the time Shay Given had to make two superb saves in four minutes after half an hour (and the Germans missed two more in that same period) the nerves were fraying again.
Lukas Podolski's jammy free kick that deflected in off Robbie Keane's boot broke our hearts but simultaneously put us out of our misery. To be honest we never really looked like scoring after that though Steven Reid's free kick did have Jens Lehmann flapping in his familiar manner and Richard Dunne might have done better with that last-gasp effort. It was a bit harsh but in reality we could have lost by three or four. And that against a mediocre German side; people are talking about how their form has fallen since the World Cup. I would argue that they are simply reverting to form; the World Cup bouyed their average team, inflating it as artificially as a Weimar Republic Deutschmark. Italy, and to a lesser extent, Argentina, cottoned on to their one-dimensional play, and Ireland, for large parts of the game last night were able to keep the ball surprisingly easily.
Not the end of the world but two wins will be needed next month away in Cyprus and at home to the Czechs. Not an impossibility. Once again though Ireland looked desperately short of ideas in the final third of the field. Nice to see Alan O'Brien on though, he looked even more dangerous than Duff, no doubt because of his obscurity. That will not last long.