Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Northern Ireland beaten by Germany but not bowed and can still make it to 2018 finals

By Steven Beacom

Published 12/10/2016

Germany's Joshua Kimmich (left) and Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward battle for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Germany's Joshua Kimmich (left) and Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward battle for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Northern Ireland's fans in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland´s defender Gareth McAuley vies for the ball during the WC 2018 football qualification match between Germany and Northern Ireland in Hanover, Germany on October 11, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's fans in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Mats Hummels (R) of Germany and Corry Evans of Northern Ireland compete for the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's fans in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C fans. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Josh Magennis of Northern Ireland reacts to a missed chance during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Corry Evans of Northern Ireland looks on during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/10/2016 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Fans during this evenings game at the HDI Arena Hannover. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Toni Kroos of Germany and Oliver Norwood of Northern Ireland in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Mario Goetze of Germany (C) controls the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/10/2016 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Fans during this evenings game at the HDI Arena Hannover. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/10/2016 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C A dejected Jonny Evans as Germany’s Sami Khedira scores during this evenings game at the HDI Arena Hannover. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Germany's Julian Draxler scores his side's first goal of the game during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Julian Draxler of Germany celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides first goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Julian Draxler of Germany celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides first goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Sami Khedira of Germany celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Matts Hummels of Germany during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Germany's Sami Khedira (third from left) scores his side's second goal of the game during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 11, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Germany. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's Lee Hodson during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 11, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Germany. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Julian Draxler of Germany celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Joshua Kimmich (L) of Germany and Shane Ferguson of Northern Ireland compete for the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 11: Josh Magennis of Northern Ireland reacts to a missed chance during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Northern Ireland at HDI-Arena on October 11, 2016 in Hanover, Lower Saxony. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Germany's Jerome Boateng (right) and Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis battle for the ball in the air during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Northern Ireland's manager Michael O'Neill during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
A Northern Ireland fan in the stands in a scary clown fancy dress during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
A Northern Ireland fan in the stands in a scary clown fancy dress during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
A Northern Ireland fan in the stands in a scary clown fancy dress during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Geoff Bannatyne and Steve Smith in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Steven Hull, Neill McIlrath and Darren McCrory in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Gary Johnston, Stewart Bell and Denis Campbell in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Steven Hull, Neill McIlrath and Darren McCrory in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Geoff Bannatyne and Steve Smith in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Phillip Hughes and Steven Cairns arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Phillip Hughes and Steven Cairns arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Davy Hamill and Tom Parke arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016

It was game over in Hannover early on. Northern Ireland were 2-0 down by the 17 minute mark.

At that stage the Green and White Army, all 1,800 of them inside the stadium and the fans watching the World Cup qualifier on television at home, were fearing the worst.

The German machine looked in the groove.

And Michael O'Neill's men had conceded twice for the first time since 2014.

The question was: how many more would the World champions score?

It was a triumph that the visitors kept Germany to nil in the final 73 minutes of the Group C clash.

While proud of his players for digging in in difficult circumstances, what disappointed manager O'Neill was that Germany's first goal could have been avoided, and the second one should have been.

Julian Draxler fired in number one on 13 minutes after the ball broke kindly to him and Northern Ireland's defenders didn't close down quickly enough. Moments later Sami Khedira netted from close range after the men in green failed to cope with a corner.

O'Neill takes great pride in Northern Ireland's set pieces at both ends of the pitch, so it was little wonder that he cut a frustrated figure on the bench when the Germans doubled their lead.

He knew the game was up.

PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016
Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Geoff Bannatyne and Steve Smith in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening.
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Geoff Bannatyne and Steve Smith in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Steven Hull, Neill McIlrath and Darren McCrory in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Gary Johnston, Stewart Bell and Denis Campbell in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Steven Hull, Neill McIlrath and Darren McCrory in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/10/2016 Northern Ireland's Fans (From L-R) Geoff Bannatyne and Steve Smith in Hannover for Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Phillip Hughes and Steven Cairns arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Phillip Hughes and Steven Cairns arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Davy Hamill and Tom Parke arrive in Hannover, ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup Qualifier against Germany on Tuesday evening. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016

There was going to be no famous victory like when Norman Whiteside scored the only goal in Hamburg in 1983.

Northern Ireland weren't going to nick a point either.

The best they could do was keep the score down and, to their credit, they did that manfully by putting their bodies on the line against the slickest international side around.

The Germans are brilliant to watch, breaking at speed and passing with precision. With Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos pulling the strings for long periods, Northern Ireland were left chasing shadows.

But they did not give in, they did not fall apart.

That character and mental strength has been built into the team by O'Neill and was epitomised by Josh Magennis, who had been chosen to lead the line again after getting the nod from the start in Saturday's 4-0 victory over San Marino at Windsor Park.

Early on Magennis was being outfought and out-thought by the magnificent Mats Hummels. Hardly surprising given that the battle between the two was effectively Charlton v Bayern Munich. Magennis, though, gamely battled on and as the half progressed he gave the world class centre-back a few things to think about.

In that first half Jamie Ward had the usual fire in his belly trying to upset the opposition, Steven Davis showed glimpses of his quality and Lee Hodson had some decent moments, while in the second period Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley came to the fore as the home side tried to increase their advantage.

Even before the Group C matches kicked off, all involved expected Germany to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals as table toppers.

They are on a mission to get there as quickly as possible having won three games out of three, scoring eight goals and conceding none.

Despite last night's defeat, Northern Ireland can still join them and re-create last night's Will Grigg sing-a-long with the German supporters in Moscow.

O'Neill's men are third in the group with four points ahead of both Norway and the Czech Republic after three games.

Azerbaijan, on seven points, are in the play-off spot at present. Northern Ireland play them at Windsor on November 11.

A home win is a must and if O'Neill's side come good in Belfast, World Cup qualification is very much on.

We can still dare to dream.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph