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

By Steven Beacom

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.

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."

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