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Euro 2016: Party time in Paris as Northern Ireland clinch place in last 16

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 22/06/2016

The Green and White Army lent vociferous backing to the Northern Ireland national team last night as they qualified for the last 16, albeit progressing after a 1-0 defeat to Germany
The Green and White Army lent vociferous backing to the Northern Ireland national team last night as they qualified for the last 16, albeit progressing after a 1-0 defeat to Germany
Rory McIlroy, wearing a George Best tee, watches the game with his friends in the Parc des Princes
DUP man Paul Givan in Paris before the game
Jonny Evans’ wife Helen and daughter Lottie
Northern Ireland’s Aaron Hughes hails the fans
Rory McIlroy and Martin McGuinness talk to man of the match Michael McGovern after the game
The wife of Kyle Lafferty, Vanessa Chung
Stuarty Dallas’ wife Juneve

It was almost midnight in Paris, and the sounds of celebration echoed through the streets of the French capital.

Jubilant Northern Ireland fans partied into the early hours to defiant shouts of "We're not going home".

And they're not. The dream lives on. What a night this was.

Yes, Northern Ireland lost narrowly to the world champions, having battled bravely in the face of a German onslaught.

But that was soon forgotten as results elsewhere sent Michael O'Neill's heroes through to the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

The good times just keep on coming.

Turkey's win over the Czech Republic, three hours after Northern Ireland finished against Germany, confirmed our progress.

Within minutes, fans spilled on to the streets in celebration.

Gary Wilkinson, from Belfast, said: "It is absolutely brilliant. I don't think that anyone wants to go home."

The party was in full swing at the huge fanzone, as supporters celebrated against a spectacular backdrop of an illuminated Eiffel Tower.

Last night, travel plans were being hastily ripped up as the prospect of another ticket scramble loomed.

The great Euro road-trip is set to continue a little longer. What a party these fans have had.

Yesterday, Paris became the latest city to turn green and white.

Northern Ireland supporters rocked up at the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee.

Fans arrived at the Parc des Princes stadium hours before kick-off, soaking up the atmosphere around the impressive square outside.

A giant inflatable crocodile that has followed the side around France had made it to Paris, and was held aloft by the crowd.

Fans applauded as the team bus snaked through the streets on the final approach to the venue. Inside, the atmosphere was already bouncing, more than an hour before kick-off.

At least 10,000 had bought tickets officially, but a glance around the 48,000-seater arena showed that number was significantly more. They included golf star Rory McIlroy, who flew in with a group of friends by private jet. He had also donned a George Best shirt for the momentous occasion.

McIlroy appeared on the stadium's giant screens a quarter of an hour before kick-off with a good luck message for the team.

Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Pacemaker Press 25/6/2016 Northern Ireland v Wales EURO 2016 Final 16 Northern Ireland Fans during this evening's game at Parc De Princes in Paris. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 25/6/2016 Northern Ireland v Wales EURO 2016 Final 16 Northern Ireland Fans during this evening's game at Parc De Princes in Paris. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland fans apply facepaint outside the stadium, as Wales fans walk behind them, prior to the round of 16 match at the Parc de Princes, Paris. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris.
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris.
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's fans at todays game against Wales in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 tournament at the Parc des Princes, Paris.
Northern Ireland fan Justin Turner ready to support his side against Wales during Saturdays Round of 16 EURO 2016 match at the Parc des Princes, Paris . Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland fans ready to support side against Wales during Saturdays Round of 16 EURO 2016 match at the Parc des Princes, Paris . Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland suporters in the stands show their support ahead of the round of 16 match at the Parc de Princes, Paris. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans enjoy the atmosphere outside the stadium prior to the round of 16 match at the Parc de Princes, Paris. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans wave a flag outside a bar prior to the round of 16 match at the Parc de Princes, Paris. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
A Northern Ireland fan in facepaint prior to the round of 16 match at the Parc de Princes, Paris. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
OLBIA, ITALY - JUNE 25: Darren Clarke and Amy Boulden pose with the flags of Northern Ireland and of Wales during The Costa Smeralda Invitational golf tournament at Pevero Golf Club - Costa Smeralda on June 25, 2016 in Olbia, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images for Professional Sports Group )
Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans pose for a selfie in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Helen McConnell and daughter Lottie, wife and daughter of Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Helen McConnell and daughter Lottie, wife and daughter of Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Helen McConnell and daughter Lottie, wife and daughter of Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Vanessa Chung, wife of Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Juneve Lamont, wife of Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong greets the fans beside the pitch before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Northern Ireland fans cross the Lagan Weir Foot Bridge in Belfast, enroute to the Titanic Fanzone to watch Northern Ireland V Germany in Euro 2016. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Northern Ireland fans cross the Lagan Weir Foot Bridge in Belfast, enroute to the Titanic Fanzone to watch Northern Ireland V Germany in Euro 2016. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Northern Ireland fans cross the Lagan Weir Foot Bridge in Belfast, enroute to the Titanic Fanzone to watch Northern Ireland V Germany in Euro 2016. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A young Northern Ireland fan cheers on his side in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Des Princes, Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Northern Ireland fans in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fan Neil Armstrong from Ballymena in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans Robert McCreadie, Aaron Baxter, Craig Baxter and Farquhar in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fan Aaron Baxter from Newry in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans Ivan Thompson and John Tilson in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans Neil Melville and Colin Maxwell in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans Alison and Chris McHenry in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland fans in Paris where Northern Ireland will play their final Euro 2016 group game against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Jimmy Nesbitt parties with Darren Ryles and friends in Lyon
Jimmy Nesbitt parties with Darren Ryles and friends in Lyon
Jimmy Nesbitt parties with Darren Ryles and friends in Lyon
Northern Ireland fans party with Jimmy Nesbitt in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Northern Ireland fans in France
Jimmy Nesbitt mingles among fans in Lyon. Credit: Green and White Army Caravan in France
Belfast Telegraph journalists Adrian Rutherford and Claire Williamson (right) with Claire Graham.
Northern Ireland football fans descend upon Place Antonin Poncet, adjacent to the fan zone in Lyon, France.
Steven Mawhinney, from Dromore, and friends with Cool FM presenters Pete Snodden and Rebecca McKinney
Steven Mawhinney, from Dromore, with Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden
Steven Mawhinney, from Dromore, in France for the Euro finals
Andrew Kerr (Articlave), Jonno McCaughan (Coleraine), Roger Woodend (New Jersey, USA)
Philip Whyte (42), from South Belfast, and friends stand in front of the Poland team bus
Colin Murray poses with fans in France during the Euros
Mark Hunter (left) from Coleraine who now lives in Vancouver and Matt Livingstone from Coleraine who now lives in London at the Northern Ireland v Poland game on Sunday
Ballyclare man Jonny Lindsay with Jimmy Nesbitt.
Rob Latimer (34) from Dunadry bumps into James Nesbitt in Nice after Northern Ireland v Poland.
Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Pat Jennings (centre) in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Kate Hoey shows her support in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
First Minister Arlene Foster with IFA President Jim Shaw and IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson at Poland V Northern Ireland in Nice, France. Photo by Press Eye
Northern Ireland's players pose ahead of the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
Michael O'Neill manager of Northern Ireland looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (centre) during the warm-up before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
A Northern Ireland fan shows her support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery with Polish fans at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery get a selfie with Polish Fans at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans David , Stuart and Colin Bell at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
Mark Jones and son Jack in Nice with Carl Frampton
Carl Frampton with fellow Northern Ireland fan James Tait in Nice
Northern Ireland supporter and Groom Stuart Stockman (second left) outside the Ma Nolan's Irish pub in Nice, France ahead of his team's opening match against Poland in Euro 2016. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 11, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro2016 StagNI. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire
Northern Ireland supporters enjoying the sights of Nice, France ahead of the team's opening match against Poland in Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans are joined by a Polish football fan as they arrive on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans arrive on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans arrive on the beach near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans Chris Geoghegan and Richard McKnight from Belfast bump into Gary Lineker in France.
Philip Wright on tour with the Green and White army. They left on a 6am flight to Nice.
Ballymacash Northern Ireland supporter's club head off to France. Pic: Andrew Clarke
David Johnston and fellow Northern Ireland fans head off to France.
Crawford McCullough's 'mancave' in Bangor Co Down.
Northern Ireland flags flying in France. Picture: Dennis Russell
Adam Topping (33) from Scarva Northern Ireland in St Raphael. He has tickets all the way to the final so will not be home until July 11.
A Northern Ireland fan samples some ice cream in Lyon, France. Thursday June 9, 2016. PA
Colin Porter passing the time before he heads to Nice. Pic: Gary Porter
Home for Bedfordshire based Dave Price and his pals for the next two weeks at least
Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans on their way to France for Euro 2016. Pic: Gregg Clarke.
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough and Ian Thompson pictured at the boulangerie in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Lyon on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland Fan Ian Thompson from Ballymena travel threw St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
A Local meets with Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel threw St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans on their way to France for Euro 2016. Pic: Gregg Clarke.
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans on their way to France for Euro 2016. Pic: Gregg Clarke.
Northern Ireland Fan Russell Bridgett from Ballymena travelling through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough, George McFall, Ian Thompson and Russell Bridgett pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough, George McFall, Ian Thompson, Darren McDonald and Russell Bridgett pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Local family and now Northern Ireland fans pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Lyon on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
The boulangerie in Georges de Reneins, France with its window decorated ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Lyon on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough, George McFall, Ian Thompson and Russell Bridgett pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough, George McFall, Ian Thompson, Darren McDonald and Russell Bridgett pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Local family and now Northern Ireland fans pictured in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Lyon on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland Fans Ian Thompson, George McFall , Russell Bridgett , Darren McDonald and Eddie McCullough from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland FanRussell Bridgett from Ballymena travel through St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Also there was Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was taking in his first Northern Ireland game.

He was greeted by a Northern Ireland fan outside the stadium with a handshake.

As the minutes to kick-off ticked down, the bottom end of the vast arena rapidly turned green. Once again, fans were in boisterous mood, belting out terrace favourites.

The stadium announcer almost brought the house down as he asked the Green and White Army if anyone was on fire, before playing the Will Grigg song.

In one corner, a section of fans sang "We're going to win 0-0", a reminder that a draw would do. Much of the pre-game talk centred on the importance of not conceding early.

But Northern Ireland were soon under all too predictable German pressure.

Step forward Michael McGovern - our hero of Paris.

The goalkeeper brilliantly denied Thomas Miller inside the first 10 minutes, the start of a truly remarkable performance.

Fans watched nervously as Muller headed against the post, before the inevitable happened.

Muller teed up Mario Gomez, and the striker slotted home to give Germany a 1-0 lead.

It was proving to be Germany versus McGovern, with the latter keeping us in the game - and the tournament.

"We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland," the fans sang. Just as well. The last time Brazil faced Germany, they conceded seven.

The second half followed a familiar pattern as the pressure continued.

But in the stands the Northern Ireland fans still sang and danced and clapped.

And in the 64th minute the applause moved up a level as they united in tribute to Robert "Archie" Rainey.

The 64-year-old passed away while watching the 2-0 win over Ukraine last week.

How proud he would have been of the spirit shown by these Northern Ireland players, and their progress to the next round.

So too Darren Rodgers, who died in a tragic accident after watching the team's opening game in Nice.

The final minutes saw Northern Ireland tackle, block, frustrate and hassle their opponents.

It finished Germany 1, Northern Ireland 0.

Or, as one fan put it, Germany 1, Michael McGovern 0.

In the stands, the German fans quickly exited.

At the other end, the Northern Ireland supporters were still singing and dancing a full 20 minutes after the final whistle.

One joked that the brave performance had kept his marriage together.

Kyle Wilson from Bangor said: "My wife Janet is a pure Deutschlander and she asked me today was I going to divorce her if Northern Ireland lost.

"The answer is, 'No, you're lucky, we're still married!'

"But seriously, it was one of the best performances I have seen. It was a brilliant effort, it was a gutsy performance. They are world champions, the best team on the planet. Who would have thought this a year ago?"

In the background the party in the stands was continuing.

Even Uefa match attendants, surely used to boisterous stadium atmospheres, were blown away, recording the singing on their mobile phones.

The fans didn't want to leave.

"We're not going home," they roared. Last night, they got their wish.

Belfast Telegraph

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