Luck of the Irish Part 2/Why so Defensive?

Last year Ireland got themselves an incredibly lucky point against Germany with a last minute equaliser. This time around they took all three points despite Germany pretty much dominating throughout the entirety of the game. No doubt they’re thrilled with the result, as they should be. Not only can they claim the honour of having beat the world champions but they’ve in a sense avenged the humiliating 6-1 defeat in the world cup qualification. More importantly thanks to Robert Lewandowksi’s late equaliser against Scotland, Ireland are now at the least guaranteed a play-off place.

But they aren’t happy with that, instead of just celebrating the victory and what it means, they’ve decided to be somewhat ungracious in victory.Which is most ironic because it’s a very similar charge they’re making against Joachim Löw. That is they are accusing him of being ungracious in defeat because he dared make a criticism of their tactics. He’s perfectly entitled to do so, it is his job after all. What else would he be passing comment on? Do you expect him to be critiquing the opposing coach’s dress sense? Which no doubt he could do an excellent job of were he called to do so. But back to the point, since when are coaches not allowed to make comments on how their team played and how the opponents played? Is that not what post match press conferences are for?

Now I didn’t watch O’Neill’s post-match press conference nor did I see the interview, but if he had criticized the way in which Germany wasted their plentiful chances or how they on occasion may have made things a little more complicated than they needed to be, would he have been out of line? No of course not, opposing coaches are entitled and expected to share their thoughts on such matters.

In the comment in question Jogi summed up the situation as he saw it, the German defence dealt with almost everything that was thrown at them and slipped up the one time it really counted. He was passing judgement on his own defenders as much as he was the Irish’s tactics. And he was very diplomatic about it, as he always is. Not everyone would have been so. Speaking honestly I know I myself would have been a lot more blunt about it.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong thing to do or say here. If he and the team had been gracious in defeat according to their standards (whatever they are), they still would found a way to twist it to their view of things. If he praised them he’d be accused of being condescending, if he criticized them in any way he’d be called a bad loser as he is now.

It’s not him being accused of being a bad loser that bothers me so much, it’s the personal insults that I don’t like. And of course the usual anti-German comments and jokes. But then those are so predictable  that they barely even register even more. No matter who the opponent is, what country or what team, even if it’s a team I really don’t like, I still think you should be respectful of your opponents. Descending into personal insults and criticism directed at one particular person is really not on. There are teams I don’t particularly like, equally there are players that I thoroughly dislike, in fact one such person was sitting on the Irish bench Thursday night. But regardless of the result of the game, I see no reason to insult them or their team.

I don’t normally read articles online, not unless I absolutely have to. And I especially don’t read the comment sections, for a very good reason. If I read something I disagree with I’ll get locked into an argument with someone and won’t be able to let go. If I don’t respond, I’ll spend all day thinking of how mad it made me. It’s not just Jogi, Germany or even football. The subject is irrelevant, it’s just how my mind works. So reading even one article about this was a really bad idea. Before I did so I wasn’t even worked up about the game at all. Of course I’m disappointed that Germany lost, for many reasons. Not just because of the qualification situation. More so because it was Ireland whom Germany played against when Jogi took charge in his first competitive international, a game made even more special because it was Hansi’s first game. Not to mention the fact that Thursday night was his 125th game in charge. I also would have liked Matze’s competitive debut (his first full start, he did come on as a sub for a few minutes when Marco Reus got injured against Scotland) to go better.

But despite all that I wasn’t obsessing over it. I could easily have been with all their missed chances, Müller’s in particular. Not only that but the penalty Hummels should have gotten and his madcap clearance which gave Ireland a free shot on goal. No doubt there’s a half a dozen more things I could find to obsess over, moments to pick apart and wonder how if just one tiny thing had gone differently, how different the game could have been.

My attitude to the game can be summed up in one very succinct German phrase: “Naja, das ist Fußball” which means well, that’s football.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes you do almost everything right and still lose. That’s the game. And it’s because of how strange and unpredictable it can be that makes the game what it is.

In regards to the criticisms of Jogi there is one final point I do have to address. Ninety-nine percent of the rubbish I read online I will treat as such,  not least because my mind is one thing and one thing only, Sunday’s game. Writing this is the final rant on the subject I will allow myself. After this it’s over and done with. There is however right now one comment I cannot let go, and that’s the accusation that he opted not to shake Martin O’Neill’s hand at the end of the match. He did no such thing and I’m certain he would not do such a thing. You can make fun of his hair, his scarves, his dress sense, in fact make fun of any of what other people consider to be his oddities. But don’t accuse him of not having manners or of not showing respect for other people. I’ve got video footage to prove that he didn’t ignore O’Neill. In fact it’s the other way around, and if you believe so much in the loser being gracious then equally you should believe in the concept of the winner being so. Surely it’s his responsibility too, all the more so since he’s the victor. Is showing respect to a conquered opponent not important?

I may not like the way Ireland played on Thursday, but I see no reason to make any criticism of it. For the simple reason that realistically, there was no other way for them to play against a side that is by far technically superior to them.  I would be embarrassed if my team played that way, but then they aren’t my team.

I do however feel the need to ask, and the pun is not at all intended, merely the best choice of words. But why so defensive about it? Why so sensitive about the perceived criticism? Why are you not just happy with having beaten Germany and come very close to securing qualification for the Euros next year? Is it perhaps because they know the victory was one born mostly of luck, because they aren’t particularly proud of how their team played? Because in truth, who would want their team to play like that?

I said I wouldn’t resort to insults of any kind, despite how ticked off I am by this whole thing. I will however allow myself one humorous comment which is partly an insult. I thought of it because of something which happened at Euro 2008. Just before the Germany-Poland match, a Polish newspaper printed a cartoon which depicted the Polish coach holding the severed head of Jogi Löw. Well with some of their comments, I think you could say the Irish are calling for Jogi’s head. Though I don’t know why because if even if they did get it, they would most likely just boot it downfield in another hopeful long ball rather than keep it on the ground and actually play football.

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