Europa League Returns to Ireland Pt. IIIPosted: July 30, 2012
Hannover 96, Germany
Stadium: AWD Arena (49,000)
Manager: Mircko Slomka
Colours: Red and partially white with black shorts
This is the second time St Patrick’s Athletic have visited Germany for European competition in four years, having narrowly lost out to Hertha Berlin in the 2009 edition of the competition. This time the Dublin outfit are really up against it, facing last year’s quarter-finalists Hannover 96.
Funnily enough though, Pats are vastly more experienced in Europe then their illustrious counterparts. Before last year, Hannover had never reached the group stage of any European competition! Hannover are playing the part of the minnows in a league of European superpowers like Bayern Munich and Broussia Dortmund.
Hannover is a city in Lower Saxony (Northern Germany) with a touch over half a million living within its bounds. ‘Die Roten’ actually finished outside the European placing in last season’s Bundesliga, but with the aforementioned pair of Bayern and Dortmund facing off in the cup final having already qualified for Europe, Hannover qualified as the next best placed team in the league.
The ’38 and ’54 German champions boast an absolute wealth of talent amongst their ranks. Internationals from all over central Europe, Africa, and Asia don the red jersey for the German outfit, though they will be missing the services of their Brazilian Felipe, out with a thigh strain. The darling of the side though is 23-year-old goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, who travelled with the German squad during their Euro 2012 campaign, and has already made one cap, as well as previously being a part of Manchester United’s squad. Zieler is being tipped by Hannover fans as Germany’s latest glove-wearing prodigy, but follows in the footsteps of the late Robert Enke. Another player to look out for is midfielder Manuel Schmiedebach, who actually has Irish connections through his father, Helmuth!
Prediction: Sorry Pats fans, but I think this is just a step too far. Hannover reached the quarter-finals of the competition last season and since have strengthened their side further. Perhaps being in-season will be an advantage but the technical gulf is far too great.
3-1 Hannover on aggregate.