5 things we learned from Northern Ireland's defeat in Germany
Northern Ireland fell to a 2-0 loss to reigning World Cup holders Germany in Hanover on Tuesday night.
Early goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira maintained Die Mannschaft's 100 per cent start to the group and left the Northern Irish with four points from three contests.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at what we learned from the fixture at the HDI Arena.
DAMAGE LIMITATION MAY PROVE KEY
It seemed as though things could turn ugly when the hosts raced into a two-goal advantage after 17 minutes. Losing away in Germany is a fate that will likely befall every other Group C nation, so the key for Michael O'Neill's men was avoiding a rout. The Norwegians and Czechs both shipped three to this team so Northern Ireland's goal difference looks healthier in the race for second.
HODSON IS RIGHT BACK IN THE FRAME
Only three outfield players in the Northern Irish squad failed to see the pitch at Euro 2016 - Luke McCullough, Will Grigg and Lee Hodson - and it was the latter who came in for his first competitive start in three years on Tuesday night. Far from being overawed by the test, Hodson produced a solid performance on the right-hand side of a back five. The Rangers defender may now keep his place ahead of Conor McLaughlin and Aaron Hughes for next month's qualifier with Azerbaijan.
SET-PIECE SOLUTIONS ARE NEEDED
A characteristic of this team under O'Neill has been their excellent work from dead-ball situations at both ends. Their manager had already bemoaned the poor use of those in an attacking sense of late and the second German goal in Hanover came from a poorly-defended corner. Northern Ireland need to get back their threat from such opportunities, an element which may be helped by Chris Brunt's possible return from injury in November.
THE GERMANS CAN CRUISE WITHOUT KROOS CONTROL
Part of the visitors' game-plan was to stop Toni Kroos exerting his influence again after he completed more passes than the entire Northern Ireland team during the game at Euro 2016. The midfield may have pressed Kroos higher up but Joachim Low has other aces up his sleeve, with Khedira often untracked further forward and Draxler, the only player in the XI not to start in Paris, scoring the first.
NOBODY WILL TROUBLE GERMANY EN ROUTE TO RUSSIA
The World Cup holders will certainly be in Russia to defend their trophy, O'Neill has accepted as much, and do not expect them to be tested by this group. They have defeated Norway, the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland, and San Marino and Azerbaijan can be turned over with even greater ease. Low will soon visit Russia to check on his country's Confederations Cup preparations and he may as well sort his summer 2018 reservations while he is there.