Republic of Ireland record stunning victory over stuttering Germany
DUBLIN -- Three thoughts on the Republic of Ireland's stunning 1-0 victory Thursday over defending world champions Germany:
1. International football alive in Dublin
There have been only a few fleeting glimpses of excitement in a less-than-inspiring Euro 2016 qualifying story during the past 13 months, but this electrifying night in Dublin was the most scintillating yet.
Shane Long's dramatic winning goal means his nation are now assured of a playoff place next month at the very least, and if they beat Poland on Sunday, automatic qualification will be theirs. A 2-2 draw in Warsaw will be enough to put Ireland through automatically on a night of unfathomable uncertainty in Group D.
Needing to match Scotland's result against the Poles to keep their destiny in their own hands, Ireland simply had to go out and beat the world champions. Well, that is precisely what they did.
A late leveler for Poland in Glasgow means they head into their game against the Irish this weekend in a strong position to claim automatic qualification, while Germany need to see off Georgia at home to secure their way.
The fallout from this defeat will haunt Germany's coach, Joachim Low, for some time, but let's let the Irish enjoy this wonderful, glorious occasion.
Everyone who was there appreciated that they had witnessed something very special.
2. A special night for Republic of Ireland
On a night when it seemed as if the game being played in Glasgow between Scotland and Poland would be more significant than what was likely to be a one-sided encounter at Aviva Stadium, something extraordinary came to pass.
Ireland beating Germany was not on the agenda for anyone prior to kickoff, and the early pattern of this game suggested a rout for the away team was the inevitable result, but this game very occasionally throws up stories like this. When it does, they should be cherished.
As Long raced from the halfway line to blast an unstoppable shot past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Irish soccer fans from a generation that have not experienced nights like this were given a glimpse of what glory feels like.
Long's goal will be etched into Irish football folklore. The Germany defence switched off as Jon Walters strolled back from an offside position, and with substitute Long showing pace and desire to get into the box from a long ball forward, his finish was world class.
What a moment. The atmosphere in the stadium was reminiscent of the days when Jack Charlton was leading an Irish side to wins of this magnitude on a regular basis, but the reality that there was still 20 minutes left to play diluted Irish celebrations. Chances continued to flow for the Germans, but this was to be a green day in Dublin and the scenes of celebration on the pitch at the end confirmed that this was Ireland's best win on home soil since they beat the Netherlands in a Euro 2016 qualifier in 2001.
That was a long time ago, but the "ole, ole, ole" is back in Irish football. This proud sporting nation has found its voice once again.
3. German machine struggling to kick into gear
It has taken time for Germany to come down from the unfathomable high of winning the World Cup in Brazil 15 months ago, and their closing instinct is still waiting to be unleashed.
Like any athlete who has reached the pinnacle of their sport, finding the desire to start again and set new goals takes time, and that has been the story for Low's players both at club and international level, yet with another major tournament around the corner, Germany are starting to click through the gears once again.
Chances flowed for Jerome Boateng, Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil in a one-sided first half that at one point saw the possession stats reading 19 percent to 81 percent in favour of the visiting team, yet somehow Ireland managed to keep their clean sheet intact.
Against opponents who are still very much in contention to join them at the Euro 2016 finals, their magnificence was in evidence in the opening 20 minutes of the game, where they looked likely to score with every attacking burst.
It said much about their level of dominance in the opening exchanges that a huge roar echoed around the stadium when an Irish player touched the ball in anger for the first time a little less than two minutes into the game, but their dominance was not converted into victory.
The team that ruthlessly hammered seven goals past Brazil in a World Cup semifinal not so long ago have lost their bite for now and while they doubtless believed they could just turn up in Dublin and confirm their Euro 2016 qualification, they now head into the final round of qualifiers needing a little more to edge over the finishing line.
We can still expect Low's side to be a powerhouse when they reach the European Championships finals with a win against Georgia at home on Sunday, which they will surely do, but their aura of brilliance has been chipped away a little.
Kevin Palmer is a sports writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @RealKevinPalmer.