Belfast Telegraph

Let's make it another night to remember - Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill's call to the Green and White Army

O'Neill insists his heroes can 'hurt' Germany and march on

By Steven Beacom in Paris

Michael O'Neill has sent a message to the Northern Ireland people ahead of tonight's make or break Euro 2016 clash with World Champions Germany, telling the fans here in France and back home that his team plan to give them another night to remember.

The Northern Ireland boss knows his side face their toughest test yet in the tournament in the Parc des Princes stadium (5.00pm), but insists his players can 'hurt' the Germans.

Even a narrow defeat for O'Neill's men could see them into the last 16 as one of the four best third placed sides in the six Euro 2016 groups, but following last week's 2-0 victory over Ukraine, the manager wants a positive result which would guarantee progress.

Asked by the Belfast Telegraph to send a message to the supporters, O'Neill said: "When you see the pictures from home of people enjoying us being here and the reaction from our fans in the stadiums, we want that to continue and hopefully we can give them another night to remember.

"If we progress then it'll be another momentous game."

O’Neill added: “The fans, in terms of support, have been phenomenal and we want to repay that. They’ve stuck by the team when maybe they’ve haven’t done as well and let them down. I recognise that as a coach.

“When you’re a small nation you enjoy the experience and it seems to be fantastic back in Northern Ireland. The focus is just football and everyone is united. We just hope we can stay in the tournament as long as possible so that mood prevails.”

After being hugely disappointed to lose 1-0 to Poland in their opening Group C fixture, earning three points against Ukraine has given the Northern Ireland players a massive boost. There is a real sense they can’t wait to take on the Germans, who have four points from their first two games against Ukraine and the Poles. 

O’Neill, himself, feels the same way. Relaxed in yesterday’s press conference in Paris, he did not want to give any tactics away about how he can challenge the World Cup holders, but he was content to talk up his side’s chances of creating a shock.

“The Germans are a strong team. We saw how they played against Poland, pinning them back but we also saw Poland had arguably the two best chances in the second half, we’re aware of that, aware of recent games where we believe there are weaknesses,” said O’Neill.

“I’m not going to state them but we believe we can hurt Germany. We’ve proven we’re a good counter attacking team. No team is flawless and I think Germany have proven that they have flaws.

“They are the World champions but there has been a change in their squad since they won the World Cup, so there’s an opportunity to exploit that. Ukraine also had chances against them. It’s up to us with whatever possession we have that we maximise that. I believe we will get opportunities in the game.

“This is a special moment for all of us. When we qualified, if you had offered us the chance to play Germany in Paris where victory would give us a chance to win our Euro 2016 group we’d have happily taken it.

“It’s an opportunity for us all to saviour the occasion and the match.

“When we look back it will be something that sticks in the memory. To make it even more memorable we have to get a result.”

Belfast Telegraph