Michael O’Neill believes Northern Ireland can stun Germany


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Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill insists both he and his players believe they have a chance to upset world champions Germany in Belfast in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier.

O’Neill’s side has been one of the surprise packages of this qualifying tournament, winning six of their eight games so far in Group C.

It means they are on the brink of securing a playoff place for next summer’s finals in Russia.

They suffered their only loss a year ago in Hannover, Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira scoring early goals in a 2-0 win for Germany.

The sides also met last summer in Paris during Euro 2016, with Northern Ireland offering resolute resistance before losing by a single goal.

Joachim Low’s team are five points ahead of second-placed Northern Ireland with two games remaining, so even victory at Windsor Park is not likely to lead to automatic qualification as Germany host Azerbaijan on Sunday and Northern Ireland travel to Norway.

O’Neill knows his side – already assured of second spot – would guarantee a playoff place by taking a point from Germany and he says they feel they can get that in what is essentially a ‘bonus game’.

“This is almost the bonus game for us. Can we take it? Can we raise the bar a little higher?” he said.

“The players believe they can. I believe they can.”

“Whatever happens in this game will never take away from the campaign we have had. We shouldn’t fear the outcome of this game.”

Northern Ireland last qualified for the World Cup in 1986. They are 10.00 to beat Germany. The world champions are 1.30 while the draw at Windsor Park is 5.25.

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