Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

Northern Ireland v Germany talking points

Northern Ireland entertain Germany on Thursday knowing no nation has ever recorded a home victory over Die Mannschaft in a World Cup qualifier.

Michael O'Neill's side are already assured of second place in Group C - and appear set to gain a play-off place - but they are five points behind the Germans, who will be in Russia next summer to defend their title if they avoid defeat in Belfast.

Here, Press Association Sport profiles the forthcoming clash at Windsor Park.

SUSPENSION CONCERNS

Half-a-dozen Northern Irish players - Jonny Evans, Steven Davis, Corry Evans, Oliver Norwood, Stuart Dallas and Josh Magennis - are one yellow card away from a suspension. If O'Neill had greater squad depth, he may have given serious consideration to not risking those six with the trip to Norway, when Northern Ireland may need something to confirm a play-off place, in mind. Yet given they would almost certainly be lambs to the slaughter if they rested stars, O'Neill looks set to roll the dice...

REFEREE DANNY MAKKELIE'S CARD-HAPPY WAYS

And that may be a real gamble given the man in the middle. Dutchman Danny Makkelie was in charge the last time Northern Ireland lost a competitive home game to Portugal in 2013 and he sent off three players that night, including Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt. Last month Makkelie dished out six cards - five yellow and one red - when he refereed Portugal's win over Hungary. O'Neill must be hoping he wakes up in a lenient mood.

GERMANY'S QUALIFYING RECORD

Die Mannschaft have lost two of their 92 World Cup qualifiers - both at home, against Portugal in 1985 and England in 2001. The reigning world champions and Confederations Cup holders have not lost since being beaten by France in the Euro 2016 semi-finals and have a 100 per cent record in this group. Nevertheless, hope can be gleaned from their defeat in Dublin in the qualification for last summer's Euros and they will also be missing Manuel Neuer and young striker Timo Werner, a man O'Neill called "the next great striker in Europe".

THE RETURN OF McAULEY

Northern Ireland have been boosted by veteran defender Gareth McAuley's return from the injury he aggravated in Azerbaijan four months ago. As one of just four Premier League players in the squad, the 37-year-old is pivotal, especially in a contest where his country are likely to spend large portions under the cosh. Twelve years on from his international bow against the same opponent, McAuley will be one of the first names on the team-sheet.

McGOVERN'S CLEAN-SHEET RUN

Germans will recognise Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern as the man who thwarted them time and time again in their 1-0 victory in Paris at the Euros. Sixteen months on he has shipped just three international goals - one at that tournament to Wales and two more to Germany in Hanover a year ago. Incredibly he has gone over 10 hours without conceding for his country and another McGovern masterclass may be needed in Belfast if the run is to carry on.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph