Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland German masterclass will make us stronger

Magennis says defeat can spur NI on in must-win against Azerbaijan

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Josh Magennis has revealed how much he relished taking on one of the world's best defenders in Mats Hummels, insisting that the experience in Germany can help Michael O'Neill's men in next month's crunch World Cup qualifier at home to Azerbaijan.

Magennis was a proud man on Tuesday night having come out of the 2-0 defeat to the Germans with great credit.

The 25-year-old from Bangor, who had started the 4-0 victory over San Marino in Belfast a few days earlier, was delighted to keep his place for the game in Hannover.

It was quite the show of faith from manager Michael O'Neill to select the Charlton striker ahead of Kyle Lafferty, who netted twice as a substitute versus San Marino, and Conor Washington, who was in from kick-off when Northern Ireland played the World Champions at the Euro 2016 finals.

Charlton striker Magennis was up against Bayern Munich hero Hummels, one of the most highly-rated players on the planet.

And while, at times, Hummels cruised through the fixture, there were others when it didn't seem as though it was a League One v Bundesliga contest, with Magennis asking some questions of the defender.

"It was fantastic to start a match and be in direct opposition to a player of the quality of Mats Hummels," said Magennis.

"I was trying to make it as tough for him as possible.

"To play against that German side and say you were able to go toe-to-toe with them is fantastic.

"We'd played against them in the summer so we knew the quality they have.

"In the starting 11 and right through the squad, it is probably the strongest in the world at the moment."

While Germany dominated with 68% possession, attempting 816 passes to Northern Ireland's 216 with an accuracy rate of 93%, the visitors still managed to create a few half chances.

Magennis, covering as much ground as possible, had one effort saved by Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

"We knew it was going to be backs-to-the-wall with the quality they had and it was about trying to take our chances when we got them.

"But unfortunately, when we got the chances, none of them ended up in the net. On another night it could have been a lot different but, even though we were beaten, we're still happy that we managed to create chances against a team of that calibre, especially away from home.

"It was never-say-die from us. That's the mentality we have, it's what Michael has instilled in us and we never gave up.

"After 17 minutes we were 2-0 down and the game could have run away from us, but we know that goal difference is a massive thing in this group so it was important that we continued to play.

"We have a lot of quality in our team and in glimpses we managed to show that.

"At the end of the day, though, we didn't come away with anything and that's disappointing."

Northern Ireland will need to take something from their next outing at home to Azerbaijan next month.

Azerbaijan, with seven points, are surprisingly in second place, and the coveted play-off spot, three games in. O'Neill's men have four. Magennis believes that the challenge of facing Germany in their own backyard can help Northern Ireland overcome Azerbaijan.

"We have to take the positives from the Germany match into our next game," said the front man.

"If we win our game against Azerbaijan we go second and that would be massive to be in that position behind Germany from November until our next qualifier in March."

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