Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is aiming to spring a surprise against world champions Germany at Euro 2016, four years on from being an imposter on a German fans’ bus.
Supporters of Joachim Low’s side will now undoubtedly be aware of O’Neill’s exploits in leading Northern Ireland to their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup ahead of Tuesday’s concluding Group C clash in Paris.
But the former Shamrock Rovers boss revealed a group of Germany fans were left Googling him to back up his claims of international management when some private travel plans at Euro 2012 ran into trouble.
“Me and a friend hired a car in Poland,” O’Neill explained. “We flew from Belfast to Krakow and that was a great base for us. But we signed an insurance waiver at the airport to say we wouldn’t take the car out of Poland so when we got to the border in Ukraine we couldn’t go across.
“We were a bit stuck. What do we do? That border – there were checkpoints and all that, loads. We’d a brainwave when we saw this bus with Germany fans.
“I think it’s about 50-60 kilometres to Lviv and we approached this wee bus. My mate tried to explain what we were doing and who I was, so that we could get on.
“They didn’t know who I was, I was only in the job about six months, so when we got on they started to Google me and ‘Northern Ireland manager’ to see who I was.”
O’Neill’s of-the-cuff trip to Poland and Ukraine using aeroplanes, cars and German buses did not come under the auspices of the Irish FA.
As much as he enjoyed the experience, with Northern Ireland knowing a draw at the Parc des Princes will be enough to send them into the last-16, the 46-year-old is relishing being at the tournament in an official capacity with someone else to take care of the insurance waivers.
“I didn’t have accreditation or anything – I’d not gone through the IFA – we just wanted to go on our own steam,” he added. “We’d our own tickets, I wanted to go to the tournament and sample it, see what it’s about.
“I wanted to see Russia and Portugal and I saw them both twice. We went to Warsaw too, and Wroclaw. I saw some great games.
“It was good, great. Now everywhere we go we’ve got police security. But that’s nice, we belong in this tournament. I sampled that one, now we’re in this one and we’re part of it.”
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