Euro 2020 qualification Group C comes to a head as heavyweights Germany host underdogs Northern Ireland in Frankfurt.
The November double-header of Group C fixtures began with the Netherlands and Germany three points clear of Northern Ireland, Michael O’Neill’s side fighting beyond themselves to keep in touch with two of the continent’s most vaunted nations.
It’s to O’Neill’s credit – and speaks to why he’s been headhunted by Championship strugglers Stoke City – that Northern Ireland have pushed the Dutch and the Germans all the way. On paper they’d be a distant third in Group C, but that’s not how the group has progressed.
Indeed, while Northern Ireland entered the final two fixtures of the group in third place, there was nothing distant about it. What looked like being a two-horse race was very much a fight between three for the duration of the qualification process.
But Northern Ireland haven’t been able to match the firepower of either the Dutch or the Germans and that is likely to be their downfall again here. The Netherlands’ first six games saw them score 19 goals, while Germany went one better with 20 – each scoring more than three goals per game on average to Northern Ireland’s seven in six.
So even if Northern Ireland can keep it tight at the back, going forward and getting the goals they’d need to take the points is a real struggle. Only one players – Josh Magennis with three – had scored more than once in qualifying before the first of the November fixtures.
Magennis’ tally could be matched by three different Germany players, and bettered by Serge Gnabry as well. Ultimately, a dogged display can be expected from Northern Ireland, but a 2-0 win for Germany is a more likely outcome.
The top bookies will know that this isn’t a fixture likely to have a heap of goals. Germany won the first match 2-0 – through Marcel Halstenberg and a late Gnabry goal – and something similar is a possibility here.
Germany’s defensive record is the best in the group prior to the first of the November fixtures, with six goals conceded in as many games – one fewer than that of the Netherlands and Northern Ireland. Another clean sheet should be achievable.
Head to Head
Germany’s win in Belfast was their 10th over Northern Ireland, with four draws and two Irish wins in the other six meetings.
Northern Ireland haven’t beaten Germany since 1983.
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