Belfast Telegraph

There's no reason why we can't write another chapter in Northern Ireland's glorious history, insists Davis

 

By Graham Luney

When Steven Davis was asked if Northern Ireland could beat Germany at Windsor Park tonight, he could have offered a diplomatic response and avoided making any bold statements.

But the Southampton midfielder has witnessed a few miracles at Windsor Park over the years, with victories over Spain and England still fresh in the memory, and he's quietly confident the mother of all international shocks can happen in south Belfast this evening.

World champions Germany have never lost a World Cup qualifier on the road, but this Northern Ireland side is in the mood to create more history, and captain marvel Davis believes it's not quite mission impossible for the men in green.

"Of course we can, football's a funny game," said the former Rangers man when asked if Northern Ireland could beat Germany. "It will be physically and mentally draining, and we will obviously need a lot of things to go right for us, but you have to go into it with that mentality and belief that we can win the game and we are going to give it a right go and hopefully we can show our abilities."

The 32-year-old from Cullybackey doesn't need an education on Germany's strength, and his respect for tonight's opponents is so high he could consider a win over them to be among his greatest achievements on the international stage.

"If we get a victory it would be up there in terms of my best result with Northern Ireland," he admitted.

"It will be very difficult, but if we do come off the pitch with a win it would be very special and one to remember.

"The atmosphere will be great. We have managed to put ourselves in a good position in the group.

"This is a game we are looking forward to. We know how difficult it is going to be but it is a game we are all relishing."

With Craig Cathcart and Aaron Hughes out injured, and a question mark still hovering over Gareth McAuley's fitness, the home defence will need to weather a storm and rely on a little luck.

"(Aaron) Hughesy is a player with great experience and is a top player and of course he is going to be missed, but hopefully other players can step up," added Davis, who will win his 98th cap.

"When you play Germany it is like you are up against an extra man.

"They are very clever in their movements and the positions they take up.

"They obviously work to try and get two v one in areas. You have to be fully concentrated for the whole match. If you switch off for one second they can get in and hurt you.

"We know exactly what they are capable of because we have played them a couple of times, and it is going to be another huge test for us, but they are great games to be involved in. If we are to take anything from it everyone will have to perform."

After losing 1-0 to Germany at the Euro 2016 finals and 2-0 in Hannover last October, Northern Ireland know the size of the hurdle ahead, but Davis says his side has grown since last summer's tournament.

"Both were very hard games with the quality they have but I think we improved from the Euros for the game in Hannover when we managed to get ourselves in some decent positions," he added.

"It's about trying to get that balance right. You can't be open against them because of the quality they have.

"They can cause a lot of problems that way. You have to play solid at the back and when we do get the ball we can't over commit but we need to show quality in those areas.

"Against them before we have got ourselves in some good positions without getting that final pass right. It is very fine lines. We won't have too many opportunities to go and attack so when we do we must make the most of them.

"It would be huge in terms of seeding. We would be very unlucky now to miss out on the play-offs and if we get a good result against Germany it would put us in a good position to get seeded.

"There is a great carrot there for us and on the night hopefully the crowd at Windsor will make it another special evening and an uneasy night for them."

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