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Northern Ireland could beat anyone in the play-offs, says Germany boss Low

Northern Ireland have what it takes to come through a World Cup play-off whether they are seeded are not, according to Germany's World Cup winning manager Joachim Low.

NI's spot in the play-offs isn't even confirmed yet, let alone knowing whether or not they will be seeded. If they were to be named as one of the four unseeded sides, Portugal or Italy could lie in wait.

MARK MARLOW 05/11/2017. World cup qualifier for Russia 2018. Northern Ireland vs Germany at The National football stadium at windsor Park in Belfast. Pictured is Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrating a goal during tonights game in Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow
MARK MARLOW 05/11/2017. World cup qualifier for Russia 2018. Northern Ireland vs Germany at The National football stadium at windsor Park in Belfast. Pictured is Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrating a goal during tonights game in Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans brings the ball away after challenging Germany's Sebastian Rudy (floor) for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Germany's Thomas Muller (centre) heads at goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland.Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans and Germany's Sebastian Rudy (left) battle for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington with Germany's Jerome Boateng during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Germany's Joshua Kimmich celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game with his team-mates during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland.Niall Carson/PA Wire.
NI
MARK MARLOW 05/11/2017. World cup qualifier Northern Ireland vs Germany at The National football stadium at windsor Park in Belfast. Pictured is Germanys Joshua Kimmich celebrating a goal during tonights game in Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow
Northern Ireland Josh Magennis and Germany Mats Hummels during Thursday night's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group C Qualifier at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans and Germany's Leon Goretzka in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany's Matts Hummells and Jerome Boateng in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas and Germany's Joshua Kimmich in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans (left) and Germany's Julian Draxler battle for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland.Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern IrelandÕs Josh Magennis during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C N Ireland during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans with Germany's Mats Hummels during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern IrelandÕs Michael McGovern as GermanyÕs Sandro Wagner makes it 2-0 during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin with Germany's Sandro Wagner during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 5-10-17 Northern Ireland v Germany - World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Germany's Mats Hummels during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland Manager Michael OÕNeill during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland Manager Michael OÕNeill during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 05/10/2017 Northern Ireland v Germany World Cup Qualifier Group C.
Northern Ireland v Germany - World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Germany's Jerome Boateng during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Germany - World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Germany's Mats Hummels during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Lee Hodson and Germany's Leon Goretzka in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Pacemaker Belfast 5-10-17 Northern Ireland v Germany - World Cup Qualifier Group C Germany's Sebastian Rudy scores his goal during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 5th October 2017 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Qualifying Group C - Northern Ireland Vs Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, south Belfast. Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley goes up for a cross in the Germany box. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 5th October 2017 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Qualifying Group C - Northern Ireland Vs Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, south Belfast. Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis with Germany's Joshua Kimmich. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Germany's Marvin Plattenhardt in action during the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast on October 4th 2017 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 5th October 2017 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Qualifying Group C - Northern Ireland Vs Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, south Belfast. Germany team line out Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 5th October 2017 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Qualifying Group C - Northern Ireland Vs Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, south Belfast. The teams line out Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

But having pitted his side against Michael O'Neill's men three times in 16 months, Low reckons Northern Ireland could cause an upset.

"Northern Ireland have a population of just under 2,000,000 and they were absolutely competitive in our group," Low noted.

"There has been hardly any gap (in the group) between them and us.

"Of course it will be tremendously difficult to beat a team like Portugal or Italy over two games but they can do it."

Low's team ensured they will be in Russia next summer to defend their crown by defeating the Northern Irish 3-1 on Thursday in Belfast, where the hosts last lost a qualifier to Portugal in September 2013.

It was the Cristiano Ronaldo show that night, yet this German side is far from a one-man band as the excellent Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner and Joshua Kimmich all registered brilliant strikes between the second and 86th minutes.

NI boss Michael O'Neill was left marvelling at Die Mannschaft's evolution and he believes that whoever lies in wait for them next month in a possible play-off will not measure up to the planet's finest side.

"I'm not sure if there's a system you can come up with that can contain Germany," O'Neill claimed.

"The quality of their play at times is breathtaking, in terms of how they move the ball and the movement of their players.

"We had two League One players and Championship players, they don't play that style, players of that calibre. It's a huge education for our players and it will acquit us well. One thing I'll say about playing Germany, whoever you play after seems a lot easier!

"If you look at the starting line-up, their oldest players are 28, 29, it gives you an indication of what's coming in.

"I would imagine in Russia Germany are going to have a fantastic squad and possibly even a stronger squad than four years ago. It just seems there's a never-ending conveyor belt of talent coming through. They'll be a formidable team to beat in Russia."

Only an unlikely Northern Irish victory would have assured them of a play-off berth on Thursday - and they never looked like being the first side to ever beat Die Mannschaft in an away World Cup qualifier.

Attention now turns to Sunday's clash with Norway in Oslo, by which time their play-off place will be confirmed only if Bosnia and Herzegovina do not beat Belgium and Greece do not beat Cyprus on Saturday.

Northern Ireland supporters have had their say in our World Cup poll.
Northern Ireland supporters have had their say in our World Cup poll.
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 5th October 2017 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Qualifying Group C - Northern Ireland Vs Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, south Belfast. Northern Ireland fans pictured during the match Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Northern Ireland fans are preparing to descend on Basel. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Pacemaker Belfast 5-10-17 Northern Ireland v Germany - World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland's fans during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Germany fans during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier against Northern Ireland at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier against Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier against Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. P
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier against Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 05th October 2017 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays World Cup Qualifier against Germany at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast.
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
October 5th 2017 - FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Group C Northern Ireland V Germany - National Football Stadium at Windsor Park
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
A Northern Ireland fan during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
A Northern Ireland fan during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland and Germany fans during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea waves to the crowd before the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
A Northern Ireland fan wearing a scarf during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS:

Even with six players one booking from a suspension, O'Neill will leave nothing to chance given the play-off draw is also seeded.

"I don't have four players from Bayern Munich on my bench, it's not that easy for me to rotate my squad," he noted.

"We want to go out and try and get three points and try and make sure we're not beaten. We can't allow ourselves to field an inexperienced team and be beaten and (maybe) suddenly lose out on (the play-offs) on goal difference. It is very important."

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