Evans: We need 'perfect game' to pass German test
Listening to Joachim Löw and Mats Hummels talk with almost unnerving conviction yesterday, it is easy to understand why Jonny Evans feels Northern Ireland will have to play the "perfect game" to take something off Germany this evening.
Having seen his team beat both Norway and the Czech Republic 3-0 in their opening two World Cup qualifiers, Löw stopped short of saying they were already looking for accommodation in Russia but admitted he was "fairly certain" Germany will be there in 2018, even though they will still have seven games to play after the visit of Michael O'Neill's side.
Löw will equal Sepp Herberger's record of 94 wins if or, to use the German word of choice yesterday, "when" the world champions triumph at the HDI Arena, but he made it clear such feats mean little to him.
Only a remarkable performance from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern prevented Germany from winning by a landslide when the teams met at the Euros in Paris in June, a game when Toni Kroos completed more passes than the entire Northern Ireland side combined.
O'Neill sat his players down to watch an edited version of that 1-0 defeat on Sunday, and while Evans said Northern Ireland had moved on from the team who would have "gone to Germany in the past and just surrendered", he is braced for a severe physical and mental examination and a different game to Saturday's 4-0 rout of San Marino.
"We will have to play almost the perfect game," Evans said. "The experience in Paris can only benefit us. I can't say it's going to have a bearing on the result but our mindset going into the game will be a lot clearer.
"The way they controlled the game against us - the timing of the pass, the angles they play at - they never let us near the ball. Tactically, there were a couple of things we can take and try and change."
Löw said he expects Northern Ireland to "sit deep and crowd the box" but O'Neill hopes to see his side make better use of any set-pieces they win than they managed against the Czechs and San Marino as well as "maximising what possession we do have".
O'Neill said: "Our delivery and execution of set-pieces has to be better than it was in the first two games."