Rampant Germany impossible to contain admits Northern Ireland boss
Draxler and Kedira seal dominant win
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill says a rampant Germany are almost impossible to stop after the world champions’ dominant 2-0 win in a World Cup qualifier.
The Germans made it three wins from three qualifiers for the 2018 finals in Russia with first-half goals by Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira sealing the routine win in Hanover on Tuesday.
Germany are yet to even concede a goal in their qualifiers for Russia 2018 and look in ominous form.
“We came here with a plan to try and nullify a fantastic team with fantastic players, which is only good if you can keep them to zero,” said O’Neill, whose side has four points from three games and faces an uphill battle to get to the World Cup.
“We conceded the first goal, it was a great finish from Draxler, but it was disappointing to lose the second goal from a corner.
“We looked like we could get a goal when we countered in the first-half and we showed a good spirit to keep them to two goals.
“But I’m not sure there is a system which can contain Germany at this moment in time.
“It’s not just the tactical side of it, it’s the enormous quality and athleticism of their players.”
Germany coach Joachim Loew revealed he told his side they need to be “ruthless” and qualify for Russia as quickly as possible.
“This was a fairly effortless victory, I have to admit,” said Loew. “We took a quick lead and sat back after that. Ireland defended deep, it felt like a 1-9-1 formation at times.”
But Loew rejected the notion that his side are a class apart, especially after the disappointment of their semi-final defeat to France at Euro 2016.
“There have been teams who have managed to stop us, but the fact is we have managed to reach a level of domination,” said Loew.
“We have a great level of variability with players changing positions to confound the opposition.
“We have different players scoring goals and we have managed to get a lot of depth to our game, plus we have a very settled side.
“We have really worked hard to get this level.”
But Loew cautioned that wins against Norway, the Czech Republic and now Northern Ireland meant Germany had not faced “category one” sides.
Loew will travel to Russia in November for a fact-finding trip ahead of Germany’s involvement in the Confederations Cup next year and in anticipation of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Captain Manuel Neuer says however that there is room for improvement.
“We know from the last European championships that anything can happen and we still have dangerous games ahead of us,” he warned.
Here’s what happened elsewhere in European World Cup qualifying:
The only team close to Germany is Azerbaijan, who settled for a 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic in Ostrava after opening with two wins.
In the other match, Norway defeated San Marino 4-1 in Oslo for their first points in qualifying.
Robert Lewandowski struck five minutes into stoppage time to earn Poland a 2-1 victory over 10-man Armenia and keep the team on pace with Montenegro at the top of the group.
It was the eighth consecutive qualifier that Lewandowski has scored in, with his latest goal coming three days after a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Denmark.
Montenegro beat Denmark 1-0 away thanks to Fatos Beciraj’s 32nd-minute goal and are well-placed to challenge Poland and qualify for the World Cup for the first time. Both Poland and Montenegro have seven points from three games.
Romania were held 0-0 by Kazakhstan in the other game.
Slovenia stayed two points behind England after three games and were joined on five points by Lithuania, who beat Malta 2-0 for their first win in the group.
In the other game, Robert Mak scored two goals and set up the third for Adam Nemec as Slovakia beat Scotland 3-0 to earn their first points in qualifying. It was Scotland’s first loss, coming three days after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Lithuania.