Belfast Telegraph

Fans are ready to roar in quest to upset Low's men

Fans' reaction

By Ian Cahoon

The contrast of emotions for the Green And White Army in this double header at the National Stadium could hardly be greater.

Thursday's slender victory over Luxembourg saw a respectable crowd of just over 14,000 at Windsor, while there won't be a spare ticket to be had as we prepare to take on Germany on Monday evening.

The atmosphere before, during and after Thursday's game was about as low-key as it gets for Northern Ireland games these days.

Fast forward four days though and it will be anything but low-key. It is now 13 and 14 years on since those famous victories over England and Spain at Windsor Park, and fans are dreaming of something similar as Michael O'Neill looks to plot our route to Euro 2020. Home fans know all about the quality of Joachim Low's new-look side, but they are also well aware of the effect that big nights, under the lights, in south Belfast can have on even the most experienced of international squads.

Belfast man Gary McCartney said: "I know it's Germany and on paper we shouldn't even stand a chance, but we honestly don't fear anyone here at Windsor. They're a good side, their manager has won the World Cup with them, but they won't fancy coming here.

"If we can keep it nice and tight early on, unlike the last time, then our lads will grow in belief that we can get a result.

"We've made the perfect start to the group and it's restored a lot of confidence after the Nations League, so why not?"

Thursday's win provided a number of players with the chance to stake their claim, not only for the visit of Germany but further ahead to future squads.

Fan Stuart Carlisle felt that in-form Linfield striker Shayne Lavery did himself no harm.

"I honestly think we could do worse than give the lad the last 20 or 30 minutes on Monday if the game is in the balance," he said.

"His pace is electric and that frightens defenders at whatever level. If you can bring him on against tiring defenders then it's a great option.

"I thought he did more in the half-an-hour he got on Thursday than some others who were on for longer."

Andrew Gillan, home from working in Spain for the Luxembourg game, believes Thursday's win will have little bearing on the tussle with Germany.

He said: "I thought Thursday was a solid if unexceptional performance and one which will probably have little impact on what Michael O'Neill plans to do against Germany.

"Germany is the first of four huge games coming up, no one really expects us to do much in any of them but that will suit Michael O'Neill perfectly.

"And who wouldn't love to see Germany added to the list of big names who've slipped up at Windsor in the early days of September over the last decade and a half?" One player who was at the National Stadium on Thursday, but won't be available for selection is Aaron Hughes.

The now retired defender was given an official send-off by the crowd at half-time, and he will be sorely missed, according to Peter Thompson.

"Aaron was top class for his country," he said.

"If he was 10 years younger he would get into that side no problem.

"It was great to see him getting the send-off he deserved on Thursday. He's a proper legend."

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