On Thursday night, Northern Ireland welcome world champions Germany to Windsor Park in World Cup qualifying.
Incredibly, the home side could still finish top of the group, as they are five points behind the visitors. However, despite Michael O’Neill’s side producing brilliant form in the group so far, it seems unlikely that they will record a win over Germany, who only need a draw to win the group.
Northern Ireland have however sealed second spot in the group and now look set for the chance to qualify for the World Cup via a play-off.
The world champions have never lost a World Cup qualifier on their travels. That means Die Mannschaft have not been defeated in 46 since they started participating in qualifying back in 1934. That is quite a daunting stat for any opposition team.
However, the home side have been punching above their weight in recent qualification campaigns. One of their main strengths has been a solid defensive foundation, which has seen O’Neill’s side keep clean sheets in seven of their last eight qualifiers.
The only team to break through the Northern Ireland defence in that eight-game run was, in fact, Germany, who recorded a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture. The defeat was also Northern Ireland’s only defeat in their last nine qualifiers.
The home sides defensive record is set to be put to the test by a prolific German attack, though. Die Mannschaft have scored at least two goals in their last 18 World Cup qualifiers.
History is on the side of the visitors as well. Germany have beaten Northern Ireland in the last six meetings between the two nations. In fact, the home side have won just two of their 16 competitive meetings with Germany.
Germany have been in fantastic form in qualifying, as usual, and I believe Joachim Low’s side will win this game. However, Northern Ireland are not like to make it easy for the world champions. Therefore this could be a high-scoring clash.