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Germany's World Cup champions were just two good

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill remains confident his team can earn a play-off spot despite suffering their first defeat in the World Cup qualifying campaign - going down 2-0 to a dominant Germany in Hannover.

Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira scored in the first 17 minutes for the World Champions leaving O'Neill's men to dig in for the rest of the match to keep the score respectable.

Germany, with three wins out of three, are already well on their way to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia as group winners.

O'Neill believes Northern Ireland, who have four points, can join them by finishing second in the table and winning a play-off. Admitting Germany were simply too strong for his side last night, O'Neill is relishing next month's crucial match at Windsor Park against Azerbaijan, who have seven points.

O'Neill said: "I've said all along Germany will win the group because they are at a different level.

"If we can win the game in November (against Azerbaijan) we'll have seven points and we'll put ourselves in a position where we can really challenge for the second spot in the group."

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