Republic of Ireland 0 Germany 0: Staunton buys time despite Keane failure to seize the moment

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The Independent Football

A heartening performance, a useful result and while pessimism continues to reign in Dublin, the fact is that mathematically the Republic of Ireland can still qualify for next summer's finals. The odds against them are hefty because the Czech Republic are not expected to implode on the campaign's penultimate day at home to Slovakia or at the death in Cyprus. But it is not over until it's over, even if there was a feeling of a big decision delayed.

Particularly in the second half, albeit against an understrength Germany described domestically as their C team, Steve Staunton's side held their own and on occasions did a bit more than that. Staunton may even be given some credit, but don't bet on it.

Outmanoeuvred in the first half as Germany eased the ball around, the second half was an improvement and only a 50th-minute aberration in front of goal from Robbie Keane denied them a lead and a possible victory. He may have felt he was offside and the moment drained away.

There were then a couple of late flurries from Andy Reid but Jens Lehmann was secure in goal and the point gained completed the formality of Germany's qualification. They can now help the Irish by beating the Czechs on Wednesday in Munich.

Due to an increasing number of German injuries that may not happen and Staunton's team will be out regardless of how they perform against Cyprus here. The sour atmosphere surrounding the manager would then worsen. The cause will not be helped by fresh suspensions to Richard Dunne and Lee Carsley.

"It's out of our hands," said Staunton, who added that he was "bitterly disappointed we didn't win the game. But it was a very good performance, especially in the second half. In that dressing room they are as sick as after a defeat. We just have to make sure we finish the group off properly and come third." Of Keane's chance, he added ruefully: "I think he thought he was offside and he didn't play to the whistle. That is a cardinal sin. But he knows."

As is his way, Staunton surprised with his selection. Andy Keogh was picked ahead of Liam Miller and Aiden McGeady, and Keogh's experience was emblematic of the team as a whole: the first half was spent chasing the ball, the second was about getting it and using it. Joey O'Brien came in at centre half after John O'Shea failed a fitness test but the two men may now be partners against Cyprus.

The defenders were significant contributors in the first half. Mario Gomez might have scored twice before Steve Finnan headed a Christoph Metzelder flick off the line in the 37th minute. Keane was denied by Lehmann after a deft pass from the inventive Reid. The second half needed a better home tempo and they delivered. Keane latched on to a header by Stephen Kelly 10 yards out with only Lehmann to beat but his dismal lob betrayed a lack of belief about him being onside.

There was a smattering of applause on the final whistle but Staunton has lost a lot of these fans along the way.