5 things that Ireland need to get right against Germany tonight
A decent result away to the world champions is a tall ask but it's not an impossible one...
The Republic of Ireland made it two wins from two with a comprehensive 7-0 demolition of Gibraltar on Saturday but the standard of opposition will go from the ridiculous to the sublime on Tuesday night.
Germany will be looking to get their qualification campaign back on track following their shock 2-0 defeat to Poland in Warsaw but here's hoping that Ireland can spring another surprise on Jogi Loew's side.
This is what we think O'Neill and his men need to get right if they're to come away from Gelsenkirchen with a positive result.
The starting team
It may seem an obvious area but O'Neill needs to get his starting XI spot-on if Ireland are to take advantage of the apparent German weaknesses.
Richie Sadlier was right in his assumption that any Irish team would have beaten Gibraltar but Die Mannschaft are a completely different proposition.
We expect Ireland to line up in a 4-5-1 formation and if given the choice, the team we would opt for would be this: Forde, Meyler, O'Shea, Wilson, Ward, McClean, Whelan, Gibson, Quinn, McGeady and Long. Let the debate begin.
The main selection dilemma revolves around who will lead the line. It seems mad to leave out our record goalscorer, especially since Robbie Keane got a hat-trick on Saturday and is really the only natural striker we have. Conversely, there are so many things to admire about Shane Long's game but finishing isn't one of them. However, his other attributes will be needed more against a German defence that seriously struggle with pace. More on that later.
Keane looked poor when he was asked to lead the line on his own away to Georgia and we don't expect Ireland to be having a lot of the ball on Tuesday night. The LA Galaxy striker clearly thrives with players like Hoolahan - who can thread balls in behind defenders or into his feet - in the team, while Long has the legs to chase lost causes, hound central-defenders and close the full-backs.
Intelligent long-ball football played into the channels might be very productive for Ireland on Tuesday and the Southampton man is a better option than the 34-year old Keane when using this game plan. Here's hoping, though, that if a chance comes Long's way he takes it.
There is an argument that both could still start on Tuesday. Long has being playing in a wide-role for the Saints this year, but we think O'Neill and the players will have learned the painful lesson from the 6-1 defeat and opt to deploy three traditional centre-midfielders and two more experienced wide men.
A penny for Wes Hoolahan's thoughts because it was noticeable just how poor Ireland were after he was taken off on Saturday. The playmaker was rightfully named as man of the match against Gibraltar because he was involved in every good passage of Irish play.
The Gibraltar game, however, was one where we were expected to dominate possession but it's unlikely that Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller will be as lenient on Tuesday. Hoolahan is a luxury that we can't afford.
The combative, disciplined and more defensively minded Stephen Quinn is the safer option, as was illustrated by the Hull City man's tireless performance against Georgia. It's very telling that he didn't feature at all against the minnows on Saturday, just like Glenn Whelan and Shane Long.
An interesting dilemma for O'Neill will be the choice between James McClean and Jon Walters in the wide position.
We haven't always been convinced by the talented but erratic McClean in an Irish shirt just but there's no doubting his qualities and it seems that Martin O'Neill is able to get the best out of the former Derry City man.
McClean was very good against Gibraltar and the two goals he scored will do his confidence no harm ahead of the German match. We'll explore the German weaknesses later, but McClean's pace is an obvious area where Ireland should look to exploit, especially since he will be up against Jerome Boateng, who had massive problems against Scotland’s Ikechi Anya earlier this year.
Jon Walters gave a timely reminder of his aerial prowess against Georgia and there is a strong case to be made in favour of his more physical, experienced and robust style. In the interests of exploiting the high defensive line that Germany are expected to play and their lack of pace then we have to opt for the Wigan winger.
Players win matches but we're certain that Martin O'Neill has studied Germany's recent games against Ghana, Algeria and Scotland when devising his game plan.
Germany have better players but that doesn't mean Ireland can't get something on Tuesday night. Let's take a look at some of the key tactical areas.
Restrict the space between our back-four and midfield
Max Kruse is the only out-and-out striker in the German squad right now but the Irish defence will have to deal with a more fluid, interchangeable and dangerous front four.
Loew is blessed with an abundance of creative midfielders and in Thomas Muller, Germany arguably have Europe's smartest and deadliest player. The Bayern Munich striker is the type of player that anyone would want in their team because he is adept at playing anywhere across the front four.
O'Shea and Wilson will have to concentrate for the entire 90 minutes because Muller is unbelievably good at disappearing for spells of games only to come alive and score in an instant. His heading ability, awareness of space and ability to smell a chance are exceptional and 10 goals in two World Cups tells you everything about the tireless striker.
To nullify this threat, Ireland will need to restrict the space between the back-four and the midfield, thus depriving Germany's magnificently gifted playmakers. With his movement, Muller will look to drag our middle pairing out of place, thus creating space for Gotze or Kroos to exploit.
The Irish team will need to be concentrated to the levels of Manchester United v Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2008 or Inter Milan in the same venue two years later.
The absence of some of Germany's more incisive and clinical passers can only be a plus for O'Neill's men but the World Champions still possess some wonderfully gifted footballers.
Press only when required
Germany will dominate possession but this doesn't equate to a lead on the scoreboard. They had 62 per cent of the ball against the Poles yet the only statistic that matters is that they lost 2-0.
Your humble author is of the belief that the days of tiki-taka are over. Winning football matches is mainly about three things; defending well, winning the ball and breaking with pace. Hence our preference for McClean, Long and McGeady to start.
There is no point in hounding Germany when they have the ball in nothing areas so Ireland need to copy exactly what Poland, Algeria and Ghana did.
Defend in numbers and break with speed when we do have the ball. Sensible possession is the key here and Tuesday night will be a supreme test of the Irish players' game management skills. If Germany do press highly then a long ball into the channels is fine. Turn their back-four towards their own goal and play the territory.
We don't care if the game is a 0-0 borefest because the result is all that matters.
Long ball if necessary
There have been numerous times when Germany's high-line was exposed in the World Cup as Manuel Neuer was frequently used as a sweeper.
None of the Germany back-four is particularly blessed with blistering pace and sometimes a direct approach is best suited to take advantage of this weakness rather than intricate passing. The following footage speaks for itself, hence the need for pace, pace and more pace.
Make no mistake about it, Germany are an absolutely wonderful team, full of match winners who play for Europe's elite clubs. They should be respected but not feared.
Now is arguably the best time to face the World Champions because it must be incredibly difficult for Joachim Loew to motivate and re-energise his players after their comedown from winning the World Cup.
Injuries, retirements and question marks all hang around the German team right now but don't forget; they still beat Brazil 7-0. Respected yes, feared no.
The German crowd will be intimidating for the first 20 minutes as Die Mannschaft will look to come out of the traps early but Ireland aren't in Gelsenkirchen because we won some raffle. We have the potential to be a decent team but the players will need to stand up to an inevitable early barrage.
Germany will have a point to prove following that shock defeat on Saturday and the longer that Ireland can stay level, the more frustrated the home crowd might get.
Reus, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Khedira and now Kramer have been ruled out of the game and although McCarthy and Coleman are missing for us, not seeing those names on the team-sheet is a big plus for us.
In terms of setting the tempo in matches, the players only need to look at our assistant manager for inspiration when it comes to laying down an early marker. Ireland need to stay strong, disciplined and rigid in the first 20 minutes because an early goal could be a killer blow.
Thou shalt not pass indeed.
Substitutions - Plan B
It would be incredibly naive and foolish for Ireland to arrive in Germany with an all-out attacking mindset but as mentioned previously, O'Neill needs to strike a balance between rigid defence and measured attack.
If the worst happens and Germany take an early lead then any pre-match tactics may have to change mid-match. Hoolahan and Keane seem the likely options to use if Ireland need to chase a goal but the bench will have a key role to play depending on how the game goes.
Tired minds and tired legs will be a feature on Tuesday and Ireland should have enough energy and experience to spring from the bench if we have something to hold onto or if we're chasing the game.
Depending on team selection, Jeff Hendrick, Jon Walters, Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Keane are all excellent options if required.
David Forde will need to be in top form
Yes Germany were beaten by Poland but the scoreline didn't fully reflect the whole match.
Wojciech Szczęsny pulled off eight saves that kept his side in the match and the world champions should have had the match wrapped up before Arkadiusz Milik's opener.
Debutant Karim Bellarabi missed a hat-trick of golden chances while Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels were also wasteful. Lukas Podolski's stunning volley was also very unlucky to crash against the bar.
There's no doubting that Ireland will need their goalkeeper in top form along with a little bit of luck but an upset in Gelsenkirchen isn't beyond the realms of impossibility.
Come on you boys in green!