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World Cup 2018: Germany's Oliver Bierhoff twists knife on Northern Ireland - Your boys just aren't up to it

By Steven Beacom

German great Oliver Bierhoff has written off Northern Ireland as not 'really tough opponents' after the sides were paired together in the 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

And Bierhoff, who made the draw in Russia on Saturday, classes the other sides in Group C - Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino - the same way.

With echoes of Fabio Capello describing Michael O'Neill's team as 'only Northern Ireland' in the last World Cup campaign when he was Russia manager, Bierhoff said: "Compared to the other groups ours is fairly straightforward. There aren't any really tough opponents. On paper the Czech Republic are definitely second favourites but we're obviously clear favourites."

Northern Ireland made Capello eat his words when they beat Russia 1-0 at Windsor and plenty of supporters here will be quick to remind Bierhoff of his comments should they lose at Windsor Park on October 5, 2017 when the sides are due to meet.

Bierhoff, now General Manager at the German Football Association, has great memories of playing at Windsor and scored a six minute hat-trick against Northern Ireland in 1997 in a World Cup game that he credits with turning around his international career.

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