Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has warned his squad they must be braced for a “backlash” from Germany following their failure to win Euro 2016 in France during the summer.
O’Neill’s side will face Germany in Hannover on Tuesday after Saturday’s routine 4-0 triumph over San Marino.
“I felt they were the best team in the competition and slipped up in terms of how they went out,” said O’Neill.
“There will be no surprise element in terms of how tough it is going to be.”
O’Neill, whose squad travelled on Sunday, will make his players watch a re-run of their 1-0 defeat by the Germans at the European Championships in June as part of their preparations for Tuesday’s game.
It will not be comfortable viewing given the reigning world champions were so formidable, despite only winning by a single goal that day in a tournament where O’Neill thought they were the stand-out nation.
Germans have a point to prove
However, Joachim Low’s team were beaten by hosts France at the semi-final stage and O’Neill believes their comfortable 3-0 World Cup qualifying wins over Norway and the Czech Republic since are evidence of a team with a point to prove.
“We played them recently in the Euros – that’s a big thing in our favour,” added O’Neill.
“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. If you look at their first two games, they’re reacting, possibly, to not having won in France.
“We have to be ready for that backlash because I think they’ve started this campaign in a different mindset than possibly they did for the Euros when they dropped points against teams that I think they wouldn’t normally do.”
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.
Defender 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 by Germany’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 admitted.
“As soon as you try to solve something, there’s another problem that exists. That’s down to the quality of the players that they have.
“Tactically they’ve really evolved and they can pin you in with possession of the ball.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37603287