Belfast Telegraph

The Germans can be beaten again: Northern Ireland '82 hero Ian Stewart

1982 hero backs 'genius' O'Neill to mastermind victory

By Stuart McKinley

The man whose right foot brought down the mighty West Germany almost 34 years ago is predicting another famous result for Northern Ireland against Die Mannschaft.

Ian Stewart is expecting Michael O'Neill's team to get the point that would almost certainly book a place in the last 16 of Euro 2016 because he believes that German football is on the way down - despite winning the World Cup just two years ago.

And with Northern Ireland on the up thanks to the work of a manager he describes as 'a genius' Stewart is as excited as any member of the Green and White Army ahead of this evening's clash in Paris.

"This is a brilliant opportunity for Northern Ireland. I watch a lot of Bundesliga games on television and I think that German football has peaked," said Stewart, who dazzled defences and entertained fans with his skills on the left wing for Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United and Northern Ireland.

"Pep Guardiola has left Bayern Munich and he wouldn't have done that if he thought German football was on the rise. The national team itself is on the way down now and going through a transitional period and Northern Ireland are on the way up.

"I've watched them in this tournament and they are a workmanlike team rather than having two or three outstanding individuals.

"They haven't conceded a goal in the tournament yet, but they are susceptible at set pieces and that is where Northern Ireland are strong, so I believe that we will score."

"I think we'll get at least a point and that would be a great result for us."

Last Thursday's 2-0 victory over Ukraine has put Northern Ireland in a position where a draw against the world champions would almost certainly secure a last 16 berth as one of the four best third-placed finishers.

Eyebrows were raised when O'Neill made five changes to his team for that match after losing 1-0 to Poland in the opening game - particularly with Kyle Lafferty being dropped - but Stewart describes those big calls as a 'masterstroke' by the boss.

"It will be interesting to see what formation and line-up Michael decides to go with against Germany," said Stewart, now 54-years-old and working for the Irish FA as a Grassroots Development Manager.

"I think he's a genius. There aren't many other manager out there who would drop five players - it was a massive shout and a masterstroke. I have full confidence in the team, this is their time and it's there for them to achieve something special."

Northern Ireland have always been capable of producing special moments against the bigger nations.

The country was still coming down from the excitement of victory over World Cup hosts Spain back in November 1982 when Stewart marked his home international debut with the goal that beat West Germany - with seven of the team that finished runners-up to Italy in the line up that night.

A year later a Norman Whiteside strike saw Northern Ireland become the first team to beat the Germans twice in a qualifying campaign.

"That was a great German team, with a lot of great individuals too," said Stewart.

"It was a wet and windy night at Windsor Park, the pitch was a bit muddy and I don't think they fancied it.

"I took advantage of the wet pitch to score the goal.

"It was a great game over there. They played really well, but we did enough to beat them."

Whiteside was still only 18-years-old, but was winning his 11th cap when he netted the decisive strike in Hamburg.

"Germany are the world champions, but Northern Ireland will fancy themselves to get something - and rightly so," said Whiteside.

"We always had the belief that we could shock the bigger nations and this group of players has that too."

Belfast Telegraph