Euro 2016 debutants Northern Ireland will hope to frustrate world champions Germany as they clash at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday.
The Green and White Army made history last week as they overpowered Ukraine to pick up a deserved 2-0 win. And it was a moment their fans will savor for a long time. Not only was it their first ever Euro win, but also their first victory since beating Spain back in 1982. Although facing Germany will be a daunting task, Michael O’Neill’s men will still fancy their chances at an upset.
And why not? They won their last game. Die Mannschaft, on the other hand, fired blanks as they had to settle for a surprise 0-0 draw with Poland. Despite putting in a good shift defensively, Germany’s offense was a whole other story entirely. Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil were among those receiving a fair share of criticism after a subdued performance. Muller in particular will be looking to finally open his Euro account; to date, he has yet to score or assist at any Euro tournament.
It goes without saying that Northern Ireland are the clear underdogs in this fixtures. The Green and White Army have only beaten die Mannschaft twice in entire history: back during qualification for the 1984 World Cup. In fact, O’Neill’s side are the only team to ever beat Germany both home and away in a qualifying campaign, but their last win was back on November 16, 1983.
Despite not calling up leading goalscorer Kyle Lafferty, Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn were enough to give Northern Ireland a well-earned victory. O’Neill will be facing a tough decision as to whether to field the Norwich man or stick with Conor Washington.
Furthrmore, several players, including Craig Cathcart, Stuart Dallas, Jonny Evans and Jamie Ward are one booking away from a ban. With a historic spot in the knockout rounds possible, that quartet will be walking the suspension tightrope for this tough clash.
Whilst O’Neill and Northern Irish fans will be encouraged, Joachim Low and German supporters – not so much. Die Mannschaft were far from their best against Ukraine – despite winning. On a normal day, they are a side that Germany would easily beat 3-0, or 4-0 without breaking a sweat. Yet, after taking the lead, they struggled to kill the game off until a very, very late goal from Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Ozil will all have to watch themselves after picking up yellow cards. To everyone’s surprise, Germany have not cruised as comfortably as predicted. In fact, although unthinkable, die Mannschaft could very well not finish top of their group. If Northern Ireland manage to pull off a shock upset, whilst Poland beat Ukraine then things could get pretty uncomfortable – quickly.
Of course, that probably won’t happen. But expect Northern Ireland, buoyed by their first ever Euro win, not to go down without a fight. They might be minnows, but even minnows can still bite. And as we saw with Leicester City this season, or Greece back at Euro 2004, anything is possible in football.
Will the Green and White Army pull off a shock upset this Tuesday? Or will Germany finally show their true colors to get their Euro campaign truly up and running?