Belfast Telegraph

Germany 2-0 Northern Ireland: Dad's text meant everything to me, says emotional Jamie Ward

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland hotshot Jamie Ward knew he'd caught the eye with his performance against world champions Germany last night - after receiving a text from his dad when he returned to the dressing room in the HDI Arena.

Burton Albion's attacking midfielder Ward was a constant threat on the left flank for Michael O'Neill's men in the first 45 minutes as Northern Ireland caused Germany more problems in the first half than they did throughout the entire Euro 2016 game in Paris.

Northern Ireland may have lost 2-0 after two goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira in quick succession inside the first 20 minutes, but through Ward and a battling display from Josh Magennis leading the line, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was tested and troubled.

Ward, who won his 29th cap in Hannover, said: "I'm happy with my own display in the first half. I must have done alright because my dad texted me and said 'well done'. He is my biggest critic, so for him to text means the world to me.

"However, it's not about individuals, it's about the team, and if the team performs well then we get something from the game."

The Northern Ireland players felt they could be proud of this performance in defeat.

The Germans let it be known in the build up to this game that they wanted goals, and plenty of them. So for Northern Ireland to keep a side full of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus stars down to just two goals is quite an accomplishment in Germany's own backyard.

Ward added: "We were a lot better going forward than in Paris. I think playing them in the summer we realised that we could actually attack them. The lads are happy with the performance, maybe not the result. But if anybody is going to come to Germany and get a result then it's going to have to be a helluva performance.

"I think you can see how the lads stuck together and team spirit really does get us a long way. We had two setbacks early on with the goals but we stuck to the style we wanted to play and luckily we didn't concede anymore goals.

"I think goal difference might be crucial in the end so that result, keeping the Germans to just two goals, could be the difference with us going for second place.

"Obviously we are disappointed to lose the game, but to lose 2-0 to the World champions on their home turf we do have to take positives from the performance."

Northern Ireland players will have to quickly regroup as the next World Cup qualifier is just four weeks away - a home clash with Azerbaijan.

After beating Norway last Saturday and drawing with the Czech Republic in Prague last night, Azerbaijan will bring a major threat to Belfast in what is a must-win for Northern Ireland.

Ward warned: "You can't write Azerbaijan off too early. We have first hand experience two years ago of how Azerbaijan can shock you. They are going to be better than people expect and I know they are classed as the underdogs, but during the last two years we were classed as the underdogs, but surprised a lot of people.

"You can't take anything for granted in international football."

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