After fluffing their lines in the opening act, Northern Ireland were much improve on night two of their Euro 2016 performance. A historic 2-0 win over Ukraine has given them every chance of qualification to the Round of 16 but now they need to get a result against World Champions Germany.
It was a much changed side on Thursday for their win against Ukraine, Michael O’Neill made no fewer than 5 changes including forward Kyle Lafferty being dropped to the bench, But it’s fair to say that the changes worked as they looked more like the side that were so impressive in topping the group during the qualifying stage.
And you won’t have had any complaints from Lafferty either who has gone on record by saying that he should be kept on the bench for this game against Germany so that Northern Ireland can build on Thursday’s win and try to take that momentum into this all important final group game
Will Griggs hasn’t really had the chance to set the tournament alight as the chant would suggest instead it’s Conor Washington who is at the top of the striking pecking order and after his solid performance against Ukraine you would imagine that he has done enough to warrant a start once again
As for Germany they haven’t quite lived up to their billing of World Champions in their two group games. An at times shaky defence just about come through unscathed when they faced Ukraine while if it wasn’t for some errant Polish finishing on Thursday night then they could have suffered a defeat to their local rivals.
Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil came closest that night in what was an underpar German performance. Lukasz Fabianski was required to make a save from each but apart from that he was rarely troubled in a game that failed to meet any pre match expectations
With the wealth of talent that Germany have at their disposal do they almost have too much and Joachim Low is struggling to work out what his best eleven actually is. Manuel Neuer obviously picks himself but from that point onwards it’s all very much a much of muchness. Does Low need to work this out if they are to add the European Championship to their 2014 World Cup success in Brazil.
For Northern Ireland it’s definitely going to be a case of the collective rather than the superstar and they are going to have to show plenty of desire if they are to get anything from this game, but for all their fight I just think Germany for all their issues in attack and defence so far will still have too much for Michael O’Neill’s side. A German win and I think possibly heartbreak for Northern Ireland who could miss out on being one of the four best 3rd placed sides