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Euro 2016: Hope, despair, then ecstasy... fans on roller-coaster ride as Northern Ireland do it hard way

Titanic Quarter a sea of green as thousands of noisy supporters watch Germany game

By Cate McCurry

Despite Northern Ireland's defeat at the hands of Germany, the thousands of supporters who packed into every corner of Belfast's fanzone last night remained hopeful and upbeat in the face of the display by the world champions.

The 1-0 loss did not flatten the high spirits of the Green and White Army, who hailed the game a success after what could have been a wash-out result. Their optimism proved well-founded, as later events proved.

The small margin of defeat meant Northern Ireland progressed to the knockout phase of the tournament as one of the best third-placed teams after Turkey's welcome 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic in last night's evening game.

The Green and White Army put in their usual impressive performance at Titanic's fanzone, with supporters singing, dancing and bouncing their way through the 93-minute game.

Northern Ireland's keeper Michael McGovern was hailed a hero and a legend by many after preventing a catalogue of would-be goals from the world champions from finding the net.

The score could have easily run away to 5-0 but for the Co Fermanagh man quashing the chances of a humiliating defeat.

Fans held their breath and hoped for a similar result to Friday's game against Ukraine in Lyon. But as the Germans took the lead 29 minutes into the game, they held their heads in their hands expecting the worst.

Every Northern Ireland fan was on tenterhooks as supporters of all ages crammed into the fanzone. Germany held on, and as the final whistle blew there was a brief moment of unease.

However, thousands of defiant supporters slowly wound their way out of the fanzone, singing loudly along to Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side of Life - and that they did.

Keith Jenkins, (39) from Carrickfergus, was at the fanzone with his family. He said: "To lose by 1-0 against the world champions isn't too bad. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough of the ball and didn't have enough chances, but they can hold their heads proud and we will see how they progress. Fingers crossed to see what happens.

"They need to keep their heads up and go forward. Don't let it defeat them and I look forward to the next one."

Jill Wilkinson from Lisburn, said it was a brilliant result and one that all of Northern Ireland should be proud of.

"We could have been absolutely slaughtered," she said.

"They are the world champions, after all, against our wee country. It was a great result.

"It could have been a lot worse. The atmosphere in the fanzone was excellent and tonight was amazing. It's great to see."

Sam McGookin, (51) from Carrickfergus, who arrived home from France only days ago after attending the games in Nice and Lyon, said he believed McGovern deserved man of the match.

"We have to remember that today's game was against the great Germans, who are the world champions, and we did alright," he added.

"Northern Ireland's keeper deserves man of the match because he must have saved at least seven or eight goals."

"Overall, we should qualify with a third-place spot. There's four up for grabs, and we should get one of them."

John Hunter, (26) from Portadown, said that while he was disappointed with the loss, the players would quickly move on.

He added: "It's not too bad considering they are world champions, but onwards and upwards. We held out and the keeper played well and we played well as a team, so we still are flying."

His friend, Nathan Mahaffy, (26) also from Portadown, said: "It was a great game and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. Pity about the result, but it was still amazing to watch."

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