Belfast Telegraph

Bring on World champions Germany, blasts Northern Ireland striker

 

By Steven Beacom

Striker Conor Washington has claimed there is no reason why Northern Ireland can't produce a big performance and result against World champions Germany next month.

Michael O'Neill's men may have secured second place in Group C on Monday night with a convincing 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Windsor Park, but QPR forward Washington insists the team won't ease up before November's World Cup play-offs.

Northern Ireland host the Germans on October 5 before finishing their qualifying campaign in Norway three days later.

They are currently on a record-breaking run of five competitive victories in a row, and have kept a remarkable seven clean sheets in eight group games - the latest against the Czechs thanks to goals from West Bromwich Albion duo Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt.

Germany have won all of their matches in Group C, but have not booked their qualification to the finals in Russia yet because of Northern Ireland's impressive run of results.

Joachim Low's team of superstars will travel to Belfast keen to make it nine wins in succession, knowing a point will secure top spot in the table and a place in the World Cup they won in Brazil in 2014.

Washington would love to disappoint them. He is determined to keep Northern Ireland's momentum going all the way to the play-offs.

"We want to get positive results in our next two games," said the 25-year-old.

"We are in good form and don't want to take the foot off the gas now and struggle for two games, then have to gee ourselves up. We are determined to keep our run going.

"If you look at the game against the Czechs, the amount of possession they had was ridiculous but our goalkeeper Michael McGovern didn't have to make a save, and if he had had to he would have done.

"I thought we did really well in terms of stifling the Czech Republic. They had a lot of the ball yet they didn't create much and we got two goals from Jonny and Chris from set-pieces which we work really hard on.

"We know what we are good at and, while obviously facing Germany is going to be really difficult, if we can execute the game plan like we did against the Czechs there is no reason why we can't get a result."

The self-belief in Washington comes from joining up with a squad on a roll that shows no signs of stopping.

Washington, a postman up until five years ago, made his international debut in March last year and since then has played in the Euro 2016 finals and is on course to reach the 2018 World Cup finals.

"It's been brilliant. The atmosphere in the squad is quality and the banter between the lads is really good," says Washington, revelling in the opportunity to shine at the highest level.

"You can see the togetherness off the pitch and we are delivering on the pitch as well.

"Ever since I've been in the squad there has been a confidence that we can get results.

"Even against the Czechs we didn't get flustered when they had a lot of the ball and we executed our game plan to perfection.

"All of us will go back to club football now but once we meet up again next month for the qualifiers with Germany and Norway, we'll be ready for another big double header.

"That's where our focus will be. We will deal with the play-offs when they come around."

On Monday night, Washington was played as the central attacker with Josh Magennis on the right and Kyle Lafferty starting on the bench. It was a big call from O'Neill, but the former Peterborough ace, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his Belfast born grandmother, didn't let the manager down with an industrious display.

"Michael O'Neill has been absolutely brilliant," says Washington.

"Tactically I think he gets it right every time. He has been great to me. I speak to him regularly and he has been terrific for my career."

And another key factor for O'Neill's boys is the Windsor Park crowd, according to the forward.

"I thought the fans were exceptional again for the Czech game," he said.

"They are brilliant at getting behind us. I really love playing at Windsor Park because the atmosphere created inside the stadium for our home games is sensational.

"You know the fans are with you every step of the way and that really lifts us."

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