Belfast Telegraph

I admire raucous Northern Ireland fans, says Hummels

 

By Steven Beacom

World Cup winner Mats Hummels is expecting the Green and White Army to be loud and proud at Windsor Park tonight.

The German superstar dished out numerous compliments about the Northern Ireland supporters and players ahead of the eagerly awaited World Cup qualifier, but come kick-off he will be determined not to give the home side anything else.

Hummels and his team-mates are here to win. Plain and simple. They don't want the country's staggering record of never losing a World Cup qualifier on the road to end on their watch.

The Germans flew from Frankfurt yesterday with Hummels tweeting a picture of himself on board, including the words "Look who is coming for you #gawa" followed by a smiling face.

Cue lots of fun retorts from Northern Ireland fans. The connection between Hummels and the Green and White Army began at Euro 2016 when the Bayern Munich ace praised the support and spoke glowingly about the 'Will Grigg's on fire' song.

Quizzed on his relationship with the GAWA, Hummels said: "It's kind of admiration I have for them because they are so special and enthusiastic. I'm really looking forward to a great atmosphere at the game."

What price on a chant of 'Hummels, Hummels, what's the score?' should Northern Ireland take the lead tonight?

He is keen that Germany take control early on and clinch their spot in next year's World Cup finals with a victory, but appreciates the visitors will face tests on and off the pitch.

"Our mission is to put the final seal on the qualification campaign," he said. "We know it's going to be hard, especially in a passionate environment that's typical for British football.

"I must say they are fantastic in defence and the only goals they have conceded (in this campaign) were against us.

"Northern Ireland's defending is not just about passion but also about skill because they bring quality too, with most playing in the upper echelons of English and Scottish football.

"They focus on defending, especially against Germany, but they have nous too and it will be hard to create chances, especially with their supporters cheering them on at home. It will be a hard nut to crack.

"They have a record of 19 points from eight games. They are fantastic statistics. It wasn't a big surprise because you could see at the Euros they are capable of keeping up with big teams."

Hummels insisted that he and the rest of the Bayern Munich players won't be distracted by recent events at their club with coach Carlo Ancelotti departing the Allianz Arena.

"We've been in this business for quite a number of years and, while the last few days at Bayern Munich have not been easy, we're in a completely different environment now," declared the composed defender.

One of his former managers, Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, who Hummels worked with at Borussia Dortmund, is also going through a tricky time, but the 28-year-old is confident results will come good at Anfield.

"I'm following Jurgen Klopp really closely. I was really happy when he had a good start this year, but right now it looks a little tough for him and the club," said Hummels. "He and the team will get out of this situation. It's not too bad but it's not as good as they wanted it to be."

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