Craig Cathcart leads applause for heroic Michael McGovern who saved day
Northern Ireland saviour Michael McGovern was given a round of applause by his international team-mates for producing the 'perfect' performance against Germany on Tuesday in Paris.
The Northern Ireland players saluted the Hamilton goalkeeper in their dressing room inside the Parc des Princes after he made at least eight world class saves from a totally dominant German attacking force, who had in total 26 efforts on McGovern's goal.
Germany won the game through a Mario Gomez goal, but McGovern's heroics ultimately made sure Northern Ireland weren't hammered and were able to progress through to the last 16 as one of the best third placed teams on goal difference.
Watford centre-half Cathcart admitted it had been the toughest match of his life and he was relieved to have McGovern in sparkling form behind him.
McGovern, who is set for a big move away from Hamilton when his contract expires next week, has now only conceded three goals in eight competitive appearances for his country.
Cathcart said: "Michael came in a little bit later into the dressing room because he was doing media interviews straight after the game. He got a little ripple of applause from the lads and it was well deserved.
"It was just a perfect performance from Michael. He had a great game and kept the score down. He made a few unbelievable saves at crucial times which we needed to stay in the game.
"Germany got through on a number of occasions and he's come out really sharp and smothered the ball. He also tipped a couple around the post.
"We would have liked to have given him a little more protection, but Germany have quality players and they are always going to create chances. Michael did a great job."
Cathcart described the game as 'the toughest of his life'.
"It was draining from start to finish and we had to defend for our lives at times," he said.
"It was a huge effort. I'd probably say that's the toughest I've ever faced. When I came off, I felt physically drained. I was also mentally drained as you had to be so switched on the whole game.
"It's certainly the best international team I've played against in my career. Germany just have quality in every position. It was really difficult," he added.
Germany's display against Northern Ireland was regarded as their best of the tournament so far. However, Cathcart believes the men in green deserve credit for not capitulating.
The 27-year-old said: "It's something we spoke about leading into the game. We said if we conceded a goal, it was important we didn't let our heads drop because every goal could make a big difference.
"That's what we did. We knew 1-0 would give us a great chance of going through. We were happy with the outcome because it could have been a lot worse."