Die Weltmeister takes on Northern Ireland in the final game of Group C. Joachim Löw’s Germany will be after three points, following their disappointing 0-0 draw with Poland last week. The Germans are in position to top the group, if they win this evening. However, Michael O’Neill will be hoping to cause the three-time European Championship winners an upset, as Northern Ireland come ever closer to qualifying for the next round.
Germany’s last game was less emphatic as Northern Ireland’s, as the Germans were held to a 0-0 draw with Poland. It was an unattractive performance by die Nationalmannschaft, as they still seem to be holding back from the electrifying and lustful football that they provided us with during their 2014 FIFA World Cup win. Mesut Özil came closest to scoring, his curled first time shot being superbly flicked over the bar by Lukasz Fabianski.
Northern Ireland’s last game brought the energy that any international tournament needs; the underdog coming out on top. Following their immaculate qualifying campaign, O’Neill’s team stumbled at the feet of Poland in the first game, as they were defeated 1-0. However, they reignited their form, and beat Ukraine 2-0 in their match up last week.
The win was widely celebrated, as the team were spurred on by their terrific support inside the stadium and worldwide. A Gareth McAuley header after half time, lifted the spirits of everyone associated with Northern Ireland. However 1-0 is a dangerous score line, and as the Ukrainian attack began to push on, six minutes of added time were announced. If anything the pressure came as a gift to Northern Ireland, as the game was decided by a Niall McGinn goal, pushing his team to touching distance of qualification to the next round.
The missing spark from Germany
Throughout the tournament, Löw has decided against including an out-and-out striker, although their only option would be to turn to Mario Gomez. Mario Götze has been placed in the false nine position for the previous games, which has been particularly frustrating, as his individual performances are lacking the power and confidence that is required of a striker at the top level. It was never going to be easy, losing a figure as influential as Miroslav Klose, but in terms of squad selection, could Löw have padded the strike position more?
If anything, the hardest thing the Germans will have to deal with is the admirable spirit that Northern Ireland bring to their games. Whether it be in the stands or on the field, the commitment and desire that the team possesses is something that even the world champions will struggle to handle; Thomas Müller confirmed this matter in his press conference earlier in the week: “They will make life tough for us. I don’t expect a high-scoring victory.”
Both teams are clear of injury, as both face the recurring struggle of team selection ahead of the game.
Northern Ireland: (4-5-1) McGovern; Hughes, McAuley, Cathcart, J. Evans; Ward, Davis, C. Evans, Norwood, Dallas; Washington.
Germany: (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Höwedes, Hummels, Boateng, Hector; Khedira, Kroos; Müller, Özil, Schürrle; Gomez.
Both teams will have to step up their game in the attempt to defeat the other; Mats Hummels has reassured us that the Germans will not be needing the assistance of fire extinguishers as he plays down the threat of the notorious, Will Grigg. He claimed that the Germans ‘do not fear’ the man or his fire.