Friday 17 January 2020

Michael O'Neill: Northern Ireland beating Germany is conceivable

A Northern Ireland victory in Germany on Tuesday is conceivable for Michael O'Neill, though the manager's primary focus is on stifling the world champions' threat.

Only two other nations - Portugal in 1985 and England in 2001 - have ever defeated the four-time World Cup winners in preliminaries for the global tournament and the Northern Irish know just what they will be up against having been given the run-around by Die Mannschaft four months earlier.

Despite the magnitude of the task in front of them in Hanover, O'Neill knows improbable results can be pulled off but in attempting to take anything from the fixture, he insists his team have to be resolute first and foremost.

"I think you can win any game," he said.

"If I look back at how Germany lost in the semi-finals in Paris (2-0 to France), it was a game that on the balance of play they shouldn't have lost.

"It is feasible to win any game. We need a lot of things to go in our favour. We will only win the game by being difficult to beat. If from that approach we can manage to win the game that's how we'll do it.

"We won't come here like the Czech Republic and play 4-4-2 and let's have a great go and the game's over in 25 minutes. We will have to be very rigid in how we play.

"From being a team that's extremely difficult to beat, then we have to maximise what possession we have, how we utilise that.

"When we look back at the game in France we had two or three chances to do better with the ball when it was 0-0 and we didn't do that. We have to make sure if those opportunities come around we maximise those."

The prospect of tackling the Germans is not one that O'Neill thinks his players fear, though, even if there may have been a few gulps when footage of their 1-0 win at the Parc des Princes in June, when the victors were in scintillating form, was replayed to them in preparation for this fixture.

"Of course we can enjoy it; we're playing the world champions in a fantastic stadium," O'Neill added.

"I imagine there will be a huge crowd here, what's not to relish? The expectation doesn't lie with us, it lies with the Germans, they're the world champions.

"We'll come here and it's a game that we have everything to gain. Whether I enjoy it through the 90 minutes or not will be another experience, I'll tell you that after the game!

"It's a game we look forward to. This is a fantastic opportunity for myself and all the players. You can see just in their mood that they're very much looking forward to the game."

PA Media

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