EURO 2016: Northern Ireland boss wary of world champs Germany

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Presseye
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture: Presseye

Michael O’Neill offered a cautious appraisal of Euro 2016 opponents Germany following their defeat to England on Saturday night.

The Germans squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Roy Hodgson’s side in Berlin.

Northern Ireland will play Joachim Low’s World champions on June 21 in their final group game at this summer’s Euros.

And while O’Neill hopes Northern Ireland can expose any frailties that Germany may – or may not – have, he is also aware of the challenge that awaits his own players in Paris.

“I watched the highlights of the game,” said O’Neill, who plans to travel to Munich to watch Germany’s friendly with Italy on Tuesday night.

“I thought England were excellent. They played with high tempo and was a great comeback.

“Equally, I think we saw two sides to Germany. Some of the opportunities they gave England were down to their own making.

“Did I see any frailties? I think at times how they played it out from the back was high risk.

“They are maybe also lacking an out-and-out centre forward. I see (Mario) Gomez is back in after not scoring in so long. But I am not going to say too much, as they have plenty of decent options.

“I am not going to say ‘Toni Kroos gave the ball away once’ or anything like that.”

O’Neill joked that he may have to fabricate some imaginary flaws in Germany’s set-up ahead of their meeting on June 21.

“We have to find ways of getting at Germany. We can’t tell our players there are no flaws and we won’t beat them,” he said.

“If there are no frailties there, we will make them up.”

While O’Neill is quick to maintain a level of reality ahead of Northern Ireland’s seismic Euro 2016 challenge, he is also aware that his Group C rivals can be beaten.

“In qualification, the Republic of Ireland took four points off Germany. Scotland were narrowly beaten home and away, so I think there has been a combination there of a hangover from the World Cup, and some transition in their team,” he added.

“But we are under no illusions. It will be as difficult a game we could get.

“The game is so far down the road for us. We are realistic that when we play Germany, it will be a different game plan to the one England deployed.

“Every team has frailties, and I think England exposed Germany’s last night.

“I think Germany only had four players starting who played in the World Cup final. So there has been transition there.

“Our main focus at this moment in time is primarily on Poland and Ukraine. We have had someone at the two Poland games this week, and the two Ukraine games also.

“We are getting to see as much as possible of our Euro rivals. Teams have changed over the qualifying campaign, including ourselves.”

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis believes Germany’s display at the weekend should offer some hope.

“I saw a wee bit of the game. It gives you a wee bit of hope that they are not unbeatable, but we know it is a massive challenge,” the Southampton midfielder said.

“They are full of world class players, but we are going out there to cause a few upsets and we will do our best.”