Belfast Telegraph

Billy Hamilton: Northern Ireland will have to be at their resilient best for World Champions German

By Billy Hamilton

Beating Germany? That's easy - sure I was part of a Northern Ireland side that conquered West Germany twice in the 1984 European Championship qualifiers!

Can we get the result we need tonight to make the last 16 of Euro 2016? It's the million dollar question and I believe we can - but only if we're smart about it.

What's it going to take to frustrate the Germans? A fantastic rearguard action and packed midfield. We cannot afford to attack against Germany like we did against Ukraine because we will get picked off on the counter attack.

They have wonderful attacking players and guys like Mesut Ozil who can set up a golden chance with one killer pass.

We can't go for the win or we will be cut open. It's important we are compact and tight and another defensive performance like the one against Poland could be enough.

Our players will need to give it 100 per cent commitment and effort.

If we fight for every ball then we can achieve our target. Germany boss Joachim Low may view this match as a chance to experiment and look at different systems.

I know some people have said they haven't been firing on all cylinders but you get the feeling they are just warming up and they have another few gears to hit when the occasion demands.

But if they rest a few players and are not going at it full throttle then we can take advantage of that, but our lads must be really up for it and play the shirts off their back.

We are going to need a little luck on the night but our work-rate has got to be immense. Although I was fortunate to be in the Northern Ireland teams that beat West Germany home and away we failed to qualify for the 1984 finals, ironically, in France, losing out on goal difference.

In those days they had a dangerous centre forward in Karl-Heinz Rummenigge but this current team doesn't have a recognised centre-forward.

They are still a quality side though and we haven't seen the best of them yet. They are world champions and will be confident of winning this tournament.

Our biggest hope is that they take their eye off the ball against us, but we have also got to get our tactics right and I'm sure Michael (O'Neill) will put five in midfield to deny them space. He might bring Chris Baird back in to provide an additional shield for the defence, while Conor Washington could be on his own up front.

I thought we were outstanding against Ukraine and Jonny Evans, in particular, was a man mountain, getting the better of Andriy Yarmolenko. Not only did he keep him quiet but Jonny was able to push forward and play the ball into midfield. Aaron Hughes was also superb but you could go through the whole team.

When I found out Michael made five changes to the line-up I was a little apprehensive but that's what a good manager does because he knows his players and he has faith in them.

I've got a feeling we will get the draw we need. This Northern Ireland team can be resilient and hard to beat.

Fans are comparing the win over Ukraine to what we achieved in 1982 when we beat hosts Spain at the World Cup Finals and that's not surprising because there was an outpouring of relief and joy after a game in which we had to get a result.

But I'm not sure the achievement can match the Spain win in 82. If we beat Germany tonight, however, then we do have a match.

It will have been a 34-year wait, but we will finally be able to talk about something else!

Belfast Telegraph