Wednesday 13 December 2017

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill hails Germany after defeat in Hanover

Michael O'Neill, right, thinks Germany are virtually unstoppable
Michael O'Neill, right, thinks Germany are virtually unstoppable

Michael O'Neill admitted there is no system in the world that can stop Germany after their 2-0 victory.

Early goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira in Hanover earned Die Mannschaft a third straight win of the World Cup qualification process and O'Neill is convinced they will be in Russia to defend their title in two years' time.

The best his side can therefore hope for is a route via the play-offs, and O'Neill was pleased to see his team dig in and see out the storm here after conceding twice in the opening 17 minutes.

"We came here with a plan to try and nullify a fantastic team with fantastic players," said O'Neill, who made three changes.

"That plan's always great if you can keep the score at 0-0. We lose the goal, it's a great finish from Draxler, the second goal we're disappointed with because we don't lose many from set pieces. It was disappointing.

"I felt that the response of the team was excellent. It would be easy to not show the character that we did show. In the first half when we broke and counter attacked, we looked like we could possibly score and possibly should have done better.

"The spirit of the second half was very good; there were a lot of good performances but we're playing against a team who, I'm not sure if there's a system in world football that can contain Germany at this moment in time."

Northern Ireland's qualification fate is unlikely to be determined by results such as this, though only losing by two was a boost to the goal difference.

And after three games, with this loss following the draw in the Czech Republic and the win over San Marino, they have a healthy return of four points.

"If we can win the game in November (against Azerbaijan) we'll have seven points and we'll have been away from home to the top two seeds in the group," O'Neill added.

"We'll put ourselves in a position where we can really challenge for the second spot in the group. I've said all along, Germany will win the group. Mr Low is going to Russia in November which I think is a good decision by him. We were under no illusions. When Germany come to Belfast maybe they will maybe not be as motivated as they were tonight."

Victory for Die Mannschaft earned Low a 94th victory in charge of the national team, a landmark that brings him level with Sepp Herberger for the most of all time.

That it was done with such ease was mainly down to the hosts slowing down after racing ahead early doors.

"This was a fairly effortless victory, we took an early lead and took our foot of the accelerator somewhat," Low revealed.

"Northern Ireland defended pretty deep, it almost seemed like a 9-0-1 formation at times. It was a very deserved victory and we just have to keep on winning.

"I have just told my team before these games they have to reach a stability and they have to play relentlessly throughout these qualifiers and take no prisoners and ensure qualification as quickly as possible."

Press Association

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