The lowdown on Northern Ireland’s Group C opponents Germany
Northern Ireland wrap up their Group C fixtures in Euro 2020 qualifying with a trip to face Germany in Frankfurt on Tuesday night.
Here, the PA news agency gives you the lowdown on their opponents at the Commerzbank Arena.
Joachim Low has seen plenty of highs and a fair number of lows since becoming Germany coach all the way back in 2006, having spent the previous two years working as an assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann. The highest point was no doubt winning the 2014 World Cup, while the lowest was suffering a group stage exit in the competition four years later. That might well have been the end for most coaches but Low had signed a new long-term deal on the eve of the tournament and has since overseen a rebuilding of the Germany squad with a number of young players, and it is a process which is bearing fruit quickly.
Members of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad are increasingly rare these days but one of the best of them still bosses the midfield. Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has it all – vision, creativity, passing and the ability to take outstanding set-pieces – and a list of honours with club and country to reflect it. Kroos is closing in on 100 caps and, at the age of 29, should have plenty left in the tank yet.
Germany need little introduction on the world stage as four-time winners of the World Cup, three-time European champions and the 2017 Confederations Cup winners. The disappointment of the last World Cup saw their FIFA ranking slip as low as 15th but, the renewal of the squad since has helped rebuild confidence and they remain one of the most feared sides in Europe.
Germany began their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign strongly and passed the single biggest test when they won 3-2 away to Holland in the opening game thanks to Nico Schulz’s last-minute goal. Further victories over Belarus and Estonia – the latter an 8-0 rout in Mainz – were made to look entirely routine. But they suffered a setback in September with a 4-2 home defeat to the Dutch, who scored all of their goals in the second half. However, that proved just a blip and they have won every qualifier since, booking their ticket to the finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday.
Northern Ireland have faced Germany 11 times since 1992 but have never won. The first three of those encounters all ended in 1-1 draws, and it has been all Germany ever since. Four of the games have come during the Michael O’Neill era. Mario Gomez’s 29th-minute goal was enough to give Germany a 1-0 win when they met at Euro 2016. When they were paired together during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Germany won 2-0 in Hanover and 3-1 at Windsor Park. Earlier this year, Germany won 2-0 in Belfast, although the final score did not tell the full story as Northern Ireland had them on the back foot for long periods and the second goal did not come until Serge Gnabry struck in stoppage time.