Belfast Telegraph

Now bring on the Germans: Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's inspirational captain Steven Davis has said the team are relishing the prospect of taking on World Champions Germany in Paris after their stunning 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Lyon kept the Euro 2016 dream alive.

Davis was magnificent along with the rest of his team-mates as Gareth McAuley and substitute Niall McGinn scored second half goals to seal a fabulous and famous victory for Michael O'Neill's men.

The result means that if Northern Ireland defeat the Germans on Tuesday they will finish at least second in their group and progress to the knockout stages and, even if they don't, they have a genuine chance of qualifying for the last 16 as one of the four best third placed teams - with bottom spot in Group C now a mathematical impossibility.

Southampton midfielder Davis said: "We know the Germany game is going to be extremely difficult but what's not to look forward to?

"We're going to Paris, playing in front of a full house and our fans will be there in massive numbers and in high spirits again.

"Playing against the World champions… it's great isn't it? It is a match that we can relish."

Davis added that he felt proud to be skipper on a historic night when Northern Ireland won their first match at a major tournament since 1982 and their first ever at the European Championships.

He has been playing for his country since 2005 and described the display as the best he could recall in his time as an international.

“That’s right up there with anything we’ve done since I’ve been in the squad,” said Davis.

“It’s probably the most complete performance in my time in a Northern Ireland shirt and to do it on this stage is incredible.

“There was a lot said by the players after we lost the Poland game 1-0 on Sunday, maybe some of it a little harsh and said in the heat of the moment, but one thing we spoke about was not having that feeling coming off the pitch again.

“We set the tone with intensity straight away and went back to our bread and butter and fully deserved to win. We have to cherish this result. These nights don’t come around too often.”

Davis praised manager O’Neill, who made huge selection calls for the Ukraine match changing almost half the team from the Poland loss and leaving star striker Kyle Lafferty on the bench.

“It was a huge call for Michael to make. He made so many changes, but the lads who came in were excellent,” commented Davis.

“We’ve said that numerous times, but the biggest thing for me was the reaction of the players who were dropped.

“It’s obviously a huge disappointment and everyone wants to play every single game, but if we’re going to do anything in this tournament we all have to stick together. That was the best thing for me about this result,” added the 31-year-old, who is looking forward to a day off with his family  today.

Belfast Telegraph