Belfast Telegraph

Task just got bigger but we still have belief, says Evans

On the run: Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans with Germany’s Julian Brandt during Monday night’s European
Championship Qualifier at Windsor Park
On the run: Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans with Germany’s Julian Brandt during Monday night’s European Championship Qualifier at Windsor Park

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Jonny Evans insists there is still 'everything to play for' in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign despite Monday night's tough to take 2-0 home defeat to Germany.

Michael O'Neill's side were the stronger team in an exhilarating first half but superbly crafted goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry at the start and end of the second period were enough for the relieved Germans to claim a crucial Group C victory.

Germany and Northern Ireland both have 12 points from five games but Joachim Low's side top the table on goal difference, while the Netherlands are looking dangerous in third with nine points and a game in hand.

Next up for Evans and co is a trip to Rotterdam next month to face the flying Dutchmen.

To qualify for the finals from the group, Northern Ireland must beat Holland in the upcoming home and away head-to-head games or defeat Germany by a better scoreline than Low's side managed in Belfast.

It's a big ask, though Leicester defender Evans does not feel it is mission impossible.

"We know it is going to be difficult but we still have things to play for, and we will approach the other games with belief like we have done over the years," stated Evans.

"The manager will have us well organised and well prepared going into those games with still everything to play for."

On facing the Netherlands, Evans added: "I've not played Holland on the international stage. As a kid growing up you always admired them as a nation, the players that they've had and everything about the orange kit, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure it's one the fans are looking forward to as well."

Like his team-mates, Evans, one of many star performers against Germany even if he admitted he was disappointed with elements of his own display, felt it was the best opportunity for Northern Ireland to defeat Low's team in the four meetings they have had in recent years.

He also revealed that Northern Ireland adapted their tactics for the Windsor encounter on the back of Holland's 4-2 victory in Germany on Friday.

"The result the other night changed our approach. We were all sat round watching it and knew that this was a big moment," said the former Manchester United centre-back.

"I think in the past we were hanging on in certain stages of the games but I think the result between Holland and Germany changed our mentality.

"Ideally, Germany beating Holland would have put us in a position to approach the game a different way.

"It's not easy to say but we felt at home that this was a good chance to beat the Germans with them coming off a bad defeat to Holland and the fact you can see a lot of their players have changed over the last couple of years and they have a new team gelling together, but, at the end of the day, they still have quality players that can be brought in and you could see that at Windsor.

"I think we can be proud, especially in our first-half performance. When you put in that energy and desire that we showed in the first half it is hard to sustain that for the whole game, and maybe that showed with our legs and ability to keep the ball in the second half.

"We came back into it 10 minutes after they scored, which shows the character of the lads. We tried to do everything to keep the game alive.

"The manager came in after the game and we were all really, really disappointed and we all felt that it was a missed opportunity.

"We wanted to have no regrets with how we played, we wanted to play on the front foot and really take the game to them and I thought we did that. It's not always easy to do that against a Germany side."

Evans pointed out that the fantastic atmosphere inside the stadium was a vocal illustration of how well the home team played in the opening 45.

He said: "I think you could tell from our first-half performance and the way we played it was one of the best atmospheres I've played in at Windsor Park.

"In the build-up to the game I was getting text messages and I haven't had that since we were at the Euro 2016 finals. It felt like such a momentous night.

"On one side, we could be proud of how we played, but we can also learn things from the game."

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