Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland can shock the world in Germany: Kyle Lafferty

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty has insisted that Michael O'Neill's men can upset the odds against World champions Germany in Hannover tomorrow night.

Joachim Low's men are hot favourites to make it three wins out of three in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but fresh from coming on as a substitute and scoring twice in a 4-0 victory over San Marino on Saturday night, Lafferty is feeling positive about pulling off a shock result.

Should Northern Ireland stun the football world and win they would jump above the Germans in the group table, though evena draw would be considered a mighty triumph.

Lafferty believes if O'Neill's players are at their very best anything is possible.

"If we go out and give a proper competitive performance we have a chance of upsetting them," claimed the Fermanagh man.

"We aren't going to go out there and walk around the pitch and expect to lose the game. It's an exciting game for us to go out and play against some of the best players in the world and probably the best team in the world over the last three or four years."

While the Germans have looked superb in beating both Norway and the Czech Republic 3-0 in their opening group games, Northern Ireland can be content with their start as well having drawn 0-0 away to the Czechs and hammered San Marino in Belfast.

Germany are expected to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as group winners, and Lafferty has faith that Northern Ireland will be there too, with the most likely route through the play-offs after finishing second in the table.

The 29-year-old says there is a burning desire amongst his team-mates to become the first Northern Ireland squad to qualify back to back for a Euro finals and the World Cup.

"It's going to be a hard campaign for us and we will come up against some very good teams, but we're confident that we can qualify, be that in first place or through the play-offs," said the Norwich striker.

"There is a good buzz around Northern Ireland and we are sitting in a good place. We want to keep progressing and we don't want to just stop at qualifying for the Euros. We want to get to the World Cup as well and be the first Northern Ireland team to do the double."

Thanks to his late brace against San Marino, Lafferty now has 19 international goals.

After the match he joked that he would need to play until he was 40 to overtake record goalscorer David Healy, who netted 36 times at the highest level, but, on a serious note, with 53 caps he has an impressive strike rate for Northern Ireland.

Whether his super-sub show earns him a starting spot against the Germans remains to be seen.

"I don't know if I'll start. If the same thing happens in Germany and I come off the bench and score twice I wouldn't mind," he said with a hearty laugh.

"I don't know what Michael is thinking. If he thinks it would be better for me to start and play an hour I'll be happy, but if not and I'm on the bench I'll respect the decision."

With little game time for Norwich this season, and at the moment not seen as the first choice forward for Northern Ireland, Lafferty revealed that this has been the toughest time of a career littered with difficult periods.

"I want to play as many games for Northern Ireland as I can, and not starting I'm always going to be disappointed, but it's not all about me," stated the former Rangers ace, whose pal Josh Magennis was selected to lead the line against San Marino.

"Unlike me there are Northern Ireland strikers playing club football and if I was in their shoes I'd be asking questions if I wasn't starting."

Lafferty, who plans to leave Norwich in January for some first team action, added that the reception he received from the Windsor Park faithful when coming off the bench at the weekend meant a great deal.

He said: "The fans have been brilliant. Obviously I helped the team qualify for the Euros and I think they appreciate me and respect me for that."

Belfast Telegraph


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