Belfast Telegraph

Germany v Northern Ireland: Scoring in Germany was my finest moment, says Michael Hughes

By Steven Beacom

Imagine scoring your first international goal away to mighty Germany with a stunning strike. Michael Hughes can tell you what it feels like because that's exactly what he did back in 1992 when winning only his fourth cap for Northern Ireland.

The former Manchester City and West Ham star would go on to play 71 times for his country, and score again versus the Germans at Windsor Park, but for the Larne man, who enjoyed a superb playing career, nothing ever bettered that stunning effort in Bremen.

It was 0-0 at the time in an international friendly when Hughes broke the offside trap and latched on to a through ball. He may have been only 20, but he had the composure and presence of mind to cut inside a defender closing him down before smashing a left foot drive into the roof of the net.

It was a spectacular goal, and signalled the arrival of a player who thrilled Northern Ireland supporters throughout the 90s.

The Germans, who had world class performers like Andreas Brehme, Thomas Hassler and Rudi Voller in their line-up, equalised and the game finished 1-1, but it was Hughes who stole the show to earn Northern Ireland a shock result.

Current boss Michael O'Neill, who came off the bench late on that night, would take that outcome tonight in Hannover when his side meet the World Champions in a World Cup qualifier.

"We were doing a lot of defending and then there was a passage of play when we had a few passes and Jim Magilton slipped the ball into space for me to run on to," recalls Hughes, now 45.

"Just inside the box I could see a defender come over. I pretended to go down the right side but cut inside to check on to my left foot. He over committed and I had a little bit of space to strike the ball into the net.

"At the time they had superstars in their side and I was only a young player who had just started playing for Northern Ireland, so to score against Germany in Germany was incredible.

"I would say it was the best moment of my career.

"I'd love to see one of the current Northern Ireland players find the net this time."

Four years on from his goal Hughes played in another sensational 1-1 draw in Germany in a World Cup qualifier when the Tom and Gerry show shocked the hosts.

Defender Gerry Taggart was on target for the visitors, and at the other end goalkeeper Tommy Wright produced a number of brilliant saves.

"Tommy was exceptional that night, just as Michael McGovern was when we played Germany in the Euro 2016 finals in the summer," said Hughes.

"Northern Ireland have always looked to their goalkeeper to deliver a big performance when playing the big nations and I would think Michael would need to be in form again in the World Cup qualifier.

"The boys will know they are going to be under pressure, and I'm sure Michael O'Neill will set the team up in a way that will give us the best chance possible to cause an upset.

"He is a shrewd manager and has done an incredible job with Northern Ireland.

"Facing Germany in their own backyard will be a real challenge for him but it's one that he will relish.

"And in football you just never know. Germany have started well in the group but so have Northern Ireland.

"If we get some luck, take any chances that come our way, defend well and Michael McGovern is on top form, it might just be our night."

Belfast Telegraph


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