Euro 2016: Plucky Northern Ireland could cause massive upset against misfiring Germany

Paris: World champions Germany meet redoubtable underdogs Northern Ireland -- former postal workers and all -- in Paris on Tuesday with a place in the Euro 2016 knockout phase on the line.

While Germany are short of momentum following a 0-0 draw with Poland last week, Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland are flying after beating Ukraine 2-0 to claim a first major tournament win in 34 years.

 Euro 2016: Plucky Northern Ireland could cause massive upset against misfiring Germany

Joachim Loew looks on as Thomas Mueller taks part in Germany's training session. Reuters

A draw would be enough to take Germany through, but in spite of the huge gulf in international experience between the teams, Joachim Loew's side are leaving nothing to chance.

"The good thing is we've analysed the opposition and we know about them," said Germany centre-back Mats Hummels.

"We've looked at it already in recent days and will do so again in depth, so it's not a great secret to us.

"If you've played a couple of times against certain players, you know their tricks. That's not the case for Northern Ireland's players, but they won't be strangers to us.

"We'll analyse them as well as possible. I'll see videos of their strikers. Hopefully I won't be getting to know them for the first time on the pitch."

Germany coach Loew missed his team's pre-match media activities due to a sore throat, but he is expected to be present on the touchline as his side's Group C campaign concludes at Parc des Princes.

Loew is under scrutiny over his misfiring forward line, after a scratchy opening 2-0 win over Ukraine was followed by last Thursday's underwhelming goalless stalemate against Poland in Saint-Denis.

Mario Goetze, who has been deployed as a 'false nine', is still to find the net and former Germany midfielders Michael Ballack and Mehmet Scholl have both been critical of the team's attacking players.

With Goetze having been withdrawn after 66 minutes against Poland, on-loan Besiktas striker Mario Gomez could be handed his first start of the tournament in place of the under-performing Bayern Munich forward.

'We can hurt Germany’

Jerome Boateng is expected to keep his place at centre-back despite a bruised hip, while Bastian Schweinsteiger is again likely to start on the bench as he builds up fitness following a knee ligament injury.

Regardless of Poland's result against eliminated Ukraine in Marseille, Northern Ireland need to win if they are to secure one of the two automatic qualifying spots.

With three points in the bag following the win over Ukraine, they could qualify as one of the four best third-place teams even if they lose, but O'Neill has set his sights on achieving a famous victory.

"We believe that we can hurt Germany," said O'Neill, whose side have been beaten only once in 14 games.

"We've proven in the past that we're a good counter-attacking team. That's what we have to be if we're to create opportunities from the level of possession that we anticipate having.

"No team is flawless. I think Germany have proven that they have flaws as well, albeit that they're world champions.

"There has been a little bit of change in their squad from two years ago, when they won the World Cup, so there's opportunities there for us to try and exploit.

"It's up to us, with whatever possession we have in the game, that we maximise that to create opportunities. Because I believe that we will get opportunities in the game."

O'Neill made five changes for the win over Ukraine and must decide whether to restore Kyle Lafferty to the starting XI after Queens Park Rangers striker Conor Washington, a former postman, took his place in Lyon.

The Irish Football Association has requested permission for Northern Ireland's players to wear black armbands in memory of 62-year-old supporter Robert Rainey, who died after reportedly suffering a heart attack during the game against Ukraine.

He became the second Northern Ireland fan to die at the tournament after 24-year-old Darren Rodgers fell to his death in Nice at the beginning of last week.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2016 13:28:15 IST