Football: German test for Irish

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The Independent Online
IF victory in the Netherlands last month was a marvellous achievement, though slightly flawed by the questionable commitment from the home side, then tomorrow's friendly against Germany in Hanover should give a more accurate guide to the Republic of Ireland's chances in the World Cup finals, writes Trevor Haylett.

Certainly Jack Charlton, who has seen his team impress with two wins and a draw from their three preparatory games so far without conceding a goal, is under no illusions that the world champions will provide the most rigorous examination.

Hailing the freshness and ebullience that his greenhorn talents, Gary Kelly, Phil Babb and Jason McAteer, have brought to an ageing squad, Ireland's manager said: 'We are moving on and moving up. But we have to because we will be required to handle competition at the very highest level. We look as if we might be able to do that now and certainly we will find out on Sunday for sure.'

With only one game to follow, against the Czechs in Dublin, before they leave for America on 6 June, Charlton will hope to send out as near a first-choice side as possible. John Sheridan has made an unarguable case for a starting role - his goal proved the difference against Bolivia on Tuesday - and he will be joined by the returning Paul McGrath if Charlton is satisfied about his fitness.

The German coach, Berti Vogts, has handed the World Cup goalkeeper's jersey to Bodo Illgner, of Cologne, who made a crucial penalty shoot- out save against England in the 1990 semi-final in Italy. Vogts opted for the Cologne man ahead of Nuremburg's Andreas Koepke in what he described as the 'most difficult decision I have ever had to make'.

Vogts is not expected to make many changes tomorrow, although the Kaiserslautern midfielder Martin Wagner, who has only one previous cap, will be given a run out in place of Andreas Brehme.

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