Belfast Telegraph

Dietmar Hamman: Germans will be cautious at Northern Ireland World Cup qualifier

By Keith Bailie

Dietmar Hamann believes Germany won't underestimate Northern Ireland when the two side's clash in next year's World Cup qualifiers.

Midfielder Hamann won 59 caps for Germany, scoring five goals, one of which came at Windsor Park in 1999, the last time the sides met in a qualifying campaign.

Hamann thinks the world champions will be wary of Northern Ireland when the two sides meet in Germany next October.

"I've played against Northern Ireland before in qualifiers, and they're always tough games.

"The Germans don't like playing in Belfast. They always know they'll get a physical game so they never look forward to it.

"When you're playing against a team full of confidence, growing in ability and strength, it's tough. It won't be an easy game in Belfast for Germany, especially as it's very hard to qualify for the World Cup.

"Only the top team in the group is guaranteed to go through and, yes, Germany are favourites, but I think Northern Ireland will be looking at second place. And Northern Ireland could nick a point or three from the champions, when they come to Belfast.

"I actually think it would be in Northern Ireland's interest if Germany won every game and ran away with the group. Norway and the Czech Republic aren't as good as they used to be, so second place is up for grabs.

"Northern Ireland's progress has not gone unnoticed in Germany.

"I'll be cheering them on, because Michael O'Neill has done a tremendous job."

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Hamann, who was in Belfast yesterday for a Carlsberg sponsored event, was keen to defend Carnlough-born Reds manager Brendan Rodgers.

While many pundits have been predicting that Rodgers will get the sack this season, Hamann believes the Anfield hierarchy have faith in the Ulsterman.

"I think you have to see how they fare in the cup competitions as well, because to succeed in the Premier League is very hard. All of the teams ahead of them last year spent money. United will be a force, Arsenal will be a force and City and Chelsea are there, so I think the club needs to win a trophy. It's been too long.

"I don't think Liverpool are going to sack Brendan anytime soon. If they're were going to sack him they could have done it after the Stoke game on the last day of the season. If they wanted rid of him they wouldn't have spent money in the summer.

"The target for this season will be a top four finish. But that's the target every year, to attract the best players. You can't attract them and afford their wages if you are not in the Champions League.

"But I wouldn't say Brendan has to finish in the top four to save his job. If they can win a cup, then that could make for a good season. It's been a few years since Liverpool have won a cup.

However, Hamann conceded the former Chelsea coach is under pressure.

"Being at a club like Liverpool is about winning trophies, and being in the Champions League. I think the pressure's on, maybe even more so now, because of the disappointing season they had last year.

"But I think there's a lot more confidence in Brendan at Liverpool than people think. But he'll be the first to admit they need to show progress this year."

Belfast Telegraph


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