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World Champions Germany were simply unstoppable, admits Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

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

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has admitted that Germany are an unstoppable force after losing 2-0 to the World Champions in Hannover.

It was a first defeat of the World Cup qualifying campaign for Northern Ireland and the first time since 2014 that they have conceded more than one goal.

Such is the German quality, it was a surprise that they didn't net more after Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira had struck within 17 minutes of kick-off.

Credit, though, goes to Northern Ireland for showing character in the face of an onslaught of class.

O'Neill said: "We came here with a plan to try and nullify a fantastic team with fantastic players.

"That plan's always great if you can keep the score at 0-0. We lose the goal, it's a great finish from Draxler, the second goal we're disappointed with because we don't lose many from set pieces. It was disappointing.

"I felt that the response of the team was excellent. It would be easy to not show the character that we did show. In the first half when we broke and counter attacked, we looked like we could possibly score and possibly should have done better.

"The spirit of the second half was very good; there were a lot of good performances but we're playing against a team who I'm not sure if there's a system in world football that can contain Germany at this moment in time."

Northern Ireland's qualification fate is unlikely to be determined by results such as this, though only losing by two was a boost to the goal difference.

And after three games, with this loss following the draw in the Czech Republic and the win over San Marino, they have four points.

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 in the stands during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the HDI Arena, Hannover. PA
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016
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
Northern Ireland fans in the stands 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) 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) 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 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 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 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
Northern Ireland fans pictured in Hannover before the World Cup 2018 Qualifier against Germany. October 2016

Next up for third placed Northern Ireland is a home game next month against Azerbaijan, who are on seven points and closest to table topping Germany.

O'Neill stated: "If we can win the game in November (against Azerbaijan) we'll have seven points and we'll have been away from home to the top two seeds in the group," O'Neill added.

"We'll put ourselves in a position where we can really challenge for the second spot in the group.

"I've said all along, Germany will win the group. We were under no illusions. When Germany come to Belfast (next year) maybe they will not be as motivated as they were tonight."

Victory earned Joachim Low a 94th success in charge of the national team, a landmark that brings him level with Sepp Herberger for the most of all time.

"This was a fairly effortless victory, we took an early lead and took our foot off the accelerator somewhat," Low revealed.

"Northern Ireland defended pretty deep, it almost seemed like a 9-0-1 formation at times.

"It was a very deserved victory and we just have to keep on winning.

"I have just told my team before these games they have to reach a stability and they have to play relentlessly throughout these qualifiers.

"They must take no prisoners and ensure qualification as quickly as possible."

Belfast Telegraph

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