Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis hopes to pass German test 11 years after first experience

By Steven Beacom in Paris

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has admitted that facing Germany early in his international career proved to be a 'great learning curve' for him.

Ahead of tonight's vital Euro 2016 Group C encounter in Paris, Southampton star Davis was asked at a press conference about his first experience of playing the Germans all the way back in June 2005, just a few months after his Northern Ireland debut.

The Windsor Park friendly ended in a 4-1 defeat for the home side and while Davis rightly pointed out there could no be comparison in that fixture and the one in France this evening, he did acknowledge it was an extremely useful experience.

"There's no significance between the two games but it was a great learning curve for me early in my career - showing me the levels you had to get to to get results," said Davis.

"Germany were a well-oiled machine on the day. It was a good test and good experience for me."

Northern Ireland's inspirational skipper is expecting another serious examination in the Parc des Princes, but with a different outcome 11 years on, adding that Michael O'Neill's men are in a good frame of mind.

"We're in a very good place after the game against Ukraine," said Davis, who knows victory would guarantee a last 16 spot.

"We're under no illusions over how difficult it is going to be.

"We will have to reach the levels we reached against Ukraine, if not surpass them. We have everything to play for and everyone is really looking forward to the game."

On tackling the World Cup holders, Davis said: "They've got a lot of quality, a lot of rotation in midfield so it's going to be a big test for us. We know we're not going to dominate possession.

"It's about choosing the right times to put pressure on. They know how to attack the spaces and pick pockets very well.

"Putting pressure on the ball is something we have done very well up until this point and it is something we will have to do against Germany.

"There was huge disappointment after the first game when we lost to Poland and everyone was on a high after the second game when we beat Ukraine but throughout the tournament everyone has been very relaxed.

"The pressure comes from within to show what we're capable of and try and progress. Everything is set up now and the German game is one we want to enjoy."

Quizzed on the value of manager O'Neill, whose stock is rising in this tournament, Davis stated: "He's been great. All the players enjoy the atmosphere that he's created within the team. I think everyone buys into the methods and the set-up.

"It's been spoken about many times, the level of detail that Michael and his staff go into. They leave no stone unturned. We know the opposition very well - their weaknesses and their strengths - and it puts us in a good position to go out and get results."

Belfast Telegraph