Neil Evans on the top moments from Northern Ireland’s loss against Germany in their final group match.
1. Joy Unconfined: Northern Ireland qualified for the last 16 following Turkey’s result, and it was no more than the team and the amazing green and white army deserved. A cacophony of noise was the soundtrack to today’s game – bravo!
2. Mighty McGovern: Released by SPFL side Hamilton Academicals, a string of super saves from Michael McGovern frustrated Germany, and saw him receive a deserved man of the match award. Expect his agent’s phone to light up like a Christmas tree!
3. Serious Contenders: Whilst Michael O’Neill’s men are just glad to be through, you get the feeling the Germans are just warming up. We have been warned.
4. Flying full backs: Staying with Germany, how impressive were Jonas Hector and, especially, Joshua Kimmich? The search for the new Philipp Lahm is over.
5. Pivotal moments: Apart from McGovern’s heroics, Northern Ireland rode their luck during the game, with Thomas Müller’s strike rattling the bar. Two nil down at half time could have opened the flood gates; fortunately, the game fizzled out instead.
6. That’s gotta hurt!: We shouldn’t laugh, but who didn’t raise a chuckle as the lino was knocked off his feet right on half time?
7. Celeb watch: Great to see Northern Ireland’s current finest sportsman, Rory McIlroy, sporting a t-shirt with the image of George Best, the country’s greatest ever.
8. Singing in the rain: The arrival of the rain seemed to rather kill the game as a meaningful contest. After the first-half fireworks, the second stanza was a damp squib… apart from 20,000 jumping Ulstermen!
9. Low watch: No scratching his ‘bits’ or anything untoward from the German supremo today, though the awful, matching grey shirts (rolled up 1980’s style to the elbow) were as shocking as the same coloured tees worn previously.
10. Vindication: Michael O’Neill deserves maximum credit for getting out of a really tough group. After his side were poor against Poland, he changed the system and personnel to beat Ukraine, and stuck with those changes against the World Champions. The reward? The thrills and spills of knockout football.
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