Friday 9 December 2016

Northern Ireland prepared to learn from Brazil ahead of clash with Germany

Published 20/06/2016 | 20:21

Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland face Germany in Paris on Tuesday night
Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland face Germany in Paris on Tuesday night

Northern Ireland are prepared to learn from five-time World Cup winners Brazil's failings as they try to upset Germany and book a Euro 2016 last-16 berth in Paris.

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The Green and White Army supporting Michael O'Neill's side in France include 'We're not Brazil, We're Northern Ireland' among their back catalogue of chants and they will be keen not to follow their lead when establishing a game-plan to nullify the reigning world champions.

Two years ago Brazil, then the hosts, were embarrassed in a 7-1 semi-final loss to Joachim Low's team in one of the most stunning results of all time.

And O'Neill, whose men would definitely seal their progress out of Group C at the Parc des Princes with a win, has promised that his resilient side will not fold in the same manner.

"What you learn from that is the situation of expectation, tension in the team and how to deal with disappointment on the football pitch, which I think Brazil didn't deal with particularly well," O'Neill said.

"It was fairly evident 20-to-25 mins into the game they were looking for the final whistle. If there's anything we do possess that maybe the Brazilians don't it's that we will go to the final whistle regardless of what the score is in the game.

"We didn't play as well as we could do in the first game, but we were in it until the final minute, we won the game against Ukraine and scored in the 96th minute so we will bring an intensity, a spirit, however long it lasts.

"Other than that, I'm not sure what we can possibly offer the Brazilians! From a tactical or coaching point of view, you probably saw everything not to do in the semi-final of the World Cup so we'll make sure we do everything in our power to prevent that kind of evening tomorrow."

The fact that the Northern Ireland boss was fielding questions about what Brazil can learn from his side shows how far the nation has come since they last met the Germans 11 years ago when, despite having 10 men for 75 minutes, the visitors won 4-1 in Belfast.

Their campaign in France has won admiration and support from the host nation and further afield, a fact that O'Neill attributes to their down-to-earth persona.

"Everyone has their favourite teams but if they see a smaller team do well in the tournament - we saw that with Leicester - they can become everyone else's second team," O'Neill added.

"If we've created that kind of atmosphere, that's a positive. We came in, we don't have an arrogance, we don't have a blasé about us, we're a fairly humble team, a hard-working team but also have goals of our own that we want to achieve.

"Hopefully with the level of performance we can win some more friends and look forward to further participation."

Qualification out of a group also featuring Poland and Ukraine would also win O'Neill some more fans in football circles.

Three months ago he penned a new four-year deal with the country, but there remains a £750,000 release clause which clubs could be tempted to trigger after witnessing O'Neill's Northern Ireland in France.

"One thing football taught me as a player was never to look too far ahead because disappointment is hanging around the corner," O'Neill insisted.

"I signed a four-year deal before the tournament and I think that was the right thing to do.

"It's well documented in that contract, the nature of it...if that situation presents itself to me you evaluate it, if it's the right thing for me or the association you evaluate it at the minute in time.

"But my focus is purely on trying to progress with the national team and the association as a whole."

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