Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland are still in the hunt for automatic Euro 2020 spot, insists Saville

Still upbeat: George Saville is keeping things positive
Still upbeat: George Saville is keeping things positive

By Ian Cahoon

George Saville insists there is still belief in the Northern Ireland camp that a place at Euro 2020 is within reach.

Monday's 2-0 defeat against Germany at Windsor Park saw the visitors replace Michael O'Neill's men at the top of Group C.

With games home and away to the Netherlands and a trip to Frankfurt still to come, a daunting end to the group awaits.

However, Saville believes he and his international team-mates have taken enough heart from Monday's encounter to go into the game against the Dutch in October without fear.

"There's belief in the camp," he said. "They're a top team, but football is 11 versus 11 and I believe we can get something out of that.

"We're still right up there (in the group) and still in with a real fighting chance of qualifying.

"If we don't believe then we won't have any chance."

Monday's defeat could have been so different had Conor Washington netted either of his first-half opportunities.

Saville also felt that Michael O'Neill's game plan was working a treat until Marcel Halstenberg's pinpoint half-volley three minutes into the second half.

"We went into Monday with a clear game plan to press them, and you could tell that it was working," he added. "I felt we had chances, especially in the first half, and if we nick a goal then it could be a different game. In the second half they got an early goal and then kept the ball well after that. Scoring so early in the second half gives them confidence and they can approach things differently.

"There's a lot for us to take from the game, they're world-class and they showed that in the second half, but there are positives for us and we'll take that into these next set of games."

Saville has started just one league match at Middlesbrough so far this season and admits he is hopeful his international performances can help him to feature more prominently in Jonathan Woodgate's plans.

"I'm not playing as much as I want at the minute and that's frustrating for any player," he said.

"My position is probably one of the strongest areas of our squad, so there is a lot of competition there.

"I'll keep training hard though and hopefully I will get my chance.

"Playing in these two games for Northern Ireland has been a positive for me."

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