Northern Ireland face Germany tonight, in a match that both sides will want to win in order to get a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
Tournament football is an unpredictable thing. Players can either shine or be none existent. Teams can unexpectedly go far, or fall short of expectations. Fans will be hoping that Northern Ireland will surprise a few people and go far.
Mats Hummels, currently in the spotlight for his recent transfer- trading Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich, was asked if the German defence was concerned that ‘Will Grigg is on fire’. Then Michael O’Neill was asked if Brazil could learn anything from the Northern Ireland side he coaches – by a Brazilian journalist.
Northern Ireland boss Michael told press that he had spotted weaknesses in the German side and thought his team could hurt them. To encourage him is the knowledge the Republic of Ireland took four points off Germany in qualifying- they would hope to do the same now.
Germany certainly fancy their chances and go into the game as strong favourites. German frontman Thomas Muller is expecting Northern Ireland to defend well and attack on the break. He said: “I don’t expect it to be any goal bonanza. We have to be realistic. Northern Ireland will be thinking about defending until the final minute. They will have many players around the box.”
“In attack we have not had the goal success we want,” Muller added. “From forwards that is what is expected and we are measured by our goalscoring abilities.”
Northern Ireland have a game plan:
Northern Ireland know what they need to do. Germany will look to attack from the outset, meaning the Northern Irish will play on the break.
“The Germans are a very strong team. We are aware that there are weaknesses in the German team,” O’Neill said, highlighting the fact that Poland arguably had the better chances against Joachim Loew’s side.
“We’re a good counter-attacking team. No team is flawless and the Germans have proved they have flaws as well. There are opportunities there for us.
A win would be Northern Ireland’s most astonishing result since Gerry Armstrong stunned Spain in 1982.