Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair blown away by sheer brilliance of world champions Germany

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's Premier League stars have hailed the strength of the German team, with Sunderland's Paddy McNair insisting it will be a miracle if anyone wins points against them in the World Cup qualifying group.

Germany are already well on their way to securing a place in the 2018 finals in Russia having won three games out of three, with their latest victory coming in Hannover on Tuesday night.

Previously in Group C they had won 3-0 in Norway and defeated the Czech Republic by the same score on home turf. Northern Ireland lost 2-0, doing well to limit the World Champions having conceded twice to Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira in the opening 17 minutes.

Former Manchester United star McNair, who came on in the second half in a bid to stem the tide, said: "I think it's going to take a miracle for anyone to take points off them, they're the best team in the world.

"The way they keep the ball...all of the players are on the same wavelength and they're all world class playing at top clubs."

McNair added that the experience of facing the Germans will help him and others improve their games.

"We didn't get the start we wanted going 2-0 down before 20 minutes, but I think there's a lot of positives to take from the match," said the Sunderland midfielder.

"To keep it to 2-0 to the end against a very good Germany side wasn't too bad.

"You're playing against world class players, and it's only going to make me a better player and the team as well.

"You never want to lose but I think they deserved to win on the night and you just have to accept that sometimes."

West Brom star Gareth McAuley said: "It was incredibly tough. We knew from playing them in the Euro 2016 finals that they were on a different level. It is a different level even to what we are used to in the Premier League week in week out.

"The lads stuck at it throughout. It was a spirited performance and we are happy we didn't get walloped really.

"They run you all over the place. They basically play five against five up front. (Mesut) Ozil gets into holes and caused all sorts of problems.

"We'll probably be seeing white flashes in our eyes when we go back to our hotel," added McAuley post match.

His central defensive partner Jonny Evans admitted he didn't know whether to laugh or cry early on when Germany were threatening to run riot.

"As defenders, and for the whole team in general actually, it was not easy as everyone was behind the ball trying to stop them," Evans told the BBC.

"After half an hour was probably the first time myself and Gareth were able to make eye contact. You didn't know whether to laugh or cry."

Northern Ireland won't have to face Germany again until Joachim Low's men come to Windsor Park in October next year. By then it is a safe bet they will have qualified for the World Cup.

The most pressing engagement for Michael O'Neill's men is next month's home game with Azerbaijan.

"That is massive," said McNair.

"If we win that match we're second in the group going into the qualifiers in March."

Belfast Telegraph


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