Northern Ireland 4 San Marino 0: Ireland mindful of backlash from Euro opponents

Norther Ireland's Steven Davis after the final whistle during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Picture: PA)

Norther Ireland's Steven Davis after the final whistle during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Picture: PA)

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Michael O’Neill has warned his Northern Ireland squad they must be braced for the Germany backlash that has followed their failure to win Euro 2016 this summer.

The Northern Irish travelled to Hannover yesterday after a routine 4-0 triumph over San Marino and O’Neill will make his players watch a rerun of their defeat to the Germans in June as part of their preparations for their next meeting tomorrow night.

It will not be comfortable viewing given the world champions were so formidable despite recording just a 1-0 success that day in a tournament where O’Neill thought they were the stand-out nation.

However, Joachim Low’s team would fall to the hosts France at the semi-final stage and O’Neill believes their comfortable World Cup qualifying wins over Norway and the Czech Republic since are evidence of a team with a point to prove.

“We’re under no illusions as to what type of game it’s going to be,” said the Northern Ireland boss.

“We played them recently in the Euros; that’s a big thing in our favour. There will be no surprise element in terms of how tough this game is going to be.

“I think the players will be ready based on the fact that they’ve faced a German team in the Euros who probably hit top gear against us. I felt they were the best team in the competition and they slipped up in terms of how they went out. We have to be ready for that backlash.”

There will almost certainly be personnel changes from the victory over San Marino – O’Neill suggested “as many as five or six” – and Kyle Lafferty will be at the front of the queue following his brace from the bench.

Aaron Hughes, 36, was brought into the fold with this contest in mind and Corry Evans’ industry in midfield may be needed in a game set to be dictated, as usual, by Die Mannschaft’s Toni Kroos.

Focusing on the Real Madrid man or any other specific player is considered frivolous by O’Neill, though.

“I’ve found that when you do start to possibly nullify them in one aspect they start to hit you with another problem,” he said.

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