Northern Ireland lock horns with Germany at the Parc des Princes in Paris for Tuesday night’s Euro 2016 C clash, needing a point to all but ensure of their place in the last-16 of the European Championships. Currently third in the group with three points from their first two games, Northern Ireland are in a great position to surpass expectations in the tournament, but the World champions stand in the way.
Manager Michael O’Neill has taken the plaudits for leading Northern Ireland to the brink of the knockouts, and despite the challenge ahead of the nation on Tuesday, the 46-year-old is staying calm under pressure. Germany will likely need a win to top the group with runners-up Poland locked on points with the Eagles after two games, so they won’t be doing Northern Ireland any favours at the Parc des Princes.
The group is very tight between the two-three sides, as Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland can all still finish top if results go their way so it’s all to play for. O’Neill is relishing the chance of leading the country to an unprecedented last-16 spot in the European Championships, and is hoping for an upset that will live long in the Northern Ireland annals of international football.
“I don’t think there’s any tension. I think this is a special moment. If you’d offered us the chance to play the world champions in Paris where a victory could mean that we would possibly win the group, I think we’d have happily taken that. This is an opportunity for all of us to enjoy and savour. When we look back on our careers, hopefully it’ll be something that sticks in the memory for a long time,” said the manager.
“To make that even more memorable, we have to obviously try and get a result and get to the next phase of the tournament. It’s as simple as that. Going forward, we hope it’s not another 30 years before we’re wheeling out (captain) Steven Davis and people like that. We want to make sure our success is somewhat more regular than that,” O’Neill added.
With the new rules of the European Championships sees four of the third-placed sides progressing into the next round of the tournament, each group has stayed competitive until the end. And with Northern Ireland only one point adrift of top spot going into their final group game, they could make history with a win over the World Cup holders. Can Michael O’Neill’s side do the impossible?