Michael O’Neill insisted Northern Ireland’s 6-1 thrashing by Germany on Tuesday will have “no bearing” on their Euro 2020 play-off.
Northern Ireland conceded six times in a qualifying match for the first time since 1949 (when they were defeated 9-2 by England) in what was a sobering loss to Joachim Low’s team.
Serge Gnabry starred with a hat-trick for Germany, whose place at next year’s showpiece tournament was already secured, with Leon Goretzka netting twice before Julian Brandt’s injury-time goal.
O’Neill’s side, who finished third in Group C, now find themselves in a one-legged play-off semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina in March, with the winner to face either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.
“This game will have no bearing on the play-offs whatsoever,” said O’Neill.
“Ultimately we were punished by the quality of the opposition. We are asking League One players to come and play against Champions League players.”
It was the biggest competitive loss of his eight-year tenure for O’Neill, who will be in charge for the play-offs despite his appointment at Championship outfit Stoke City.
13 goals in 13 Germany games for @SergeGnabry
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 19, 2019
“You never want to get beaten 6-1 and it was tough in the second half particularly,” he added.
O’Neill’s team were defeated on both occasions by Bosnia-Herzegovina when the sides met in the Nations League last year, however the boss remains optimistic they can reach a second successive Euros.
“When the Bosnia game comes around in March we have to aim to have our key players fit,” he said.
“We know what to expect in terms of the intimidation and it’s a tight ground, but we will go into that game knowing that we can win.”
O’Neill described Gnabry as “un-defendable” and the Bayern Munich player, who now has 14 goals for club and country this season, admitted he is revelling in his role as a striker having previously played as a winger.
“I have to try to give my best every game,” said Gnabry, whose 13 goals in as many Germany games has only been bettered by the legendary Gerd Muller.
“I am playing as a striker here, which I have enjoyed a lot. Scoring goals came easy to me as a youth player and it continues to work out here for me as well.”
Low was pleased to see his team, who finished ahead of Netherlands as group winners and will now play their Euro 2020 group games in Munich, continue to press for more goals.
He said: “We enjoyed it very much. We have played a very consequential game. Even when we were up by two or three goals, we continued attacking. We can be very pleased.
“We did not get nervous after going behind, I have liked what I have seen very much. We were focused for the full 90 minutes and this makes me positive looking forward.”
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