Northern Ireland vs. Germany finished 1-0 in favor of Die Mannschaft, but it could have been so much worse.
Germany could have ended the first half 5-0 in front, but Northern Ireland held on, thanks in large part to the performance of goalkeeper Michael McGovern, who made seven magnificent saves throughout the match.
The result sees Germany top Group C, while Northern Ireland's ability to keep the score down means they are very much still alive in this competition.
Germany started the game on the front foot, looking much more penetrative than they had in the first two group games. Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern was called into action almost immediately, as he was forced to make fine point blank saves against Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze. By the 12th minute, Northern Ireland could have been 3-0 down were it not for the heroic actions of their goalkeeper.
There was a general unease that this game could turn into a repeat of the Poland match for Northern Ireland, in which they were unable to make any forays out of their own half. Indeed, Germany kept them very much pinned in their own half with their metronomic passing, yet aside from the opening flurry of chances, they failed to create much.
Thomas Muller had a great chance after Mario Gomez laid the ball off for the Bayern Munich man, but his volley fizzed just wide. Muller then hit the post shortly after, presumably making him wonder what he had to do to score.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland fans were making all the noise, singing the "Will Grigg's On Fire" chant ad nauseum. They were living a charmed life, but they were in fine spirits.
Northern Ireland fans are class.pic.twitter.com/YlrpGz2Ow2— Matt Holt Tips (@MattHoltTips) June 21, 2016
The levy finally broke in the 31st minute, as Muller charged into the penalty area and laid it off to Mario Gomez, who made no mistake with the finish.
Muller almost made it 2-0 moments later, but he hit the woodwork yet again. Northern Ireland were defending bravely and with discipline, but Germany looked threatening with every attack.
Somehow, Northern Ireland reached halftime only one goal down, which gave them a sliver of hope to stay in the tournament. However, Germany looked in a mood and it seemed to be only a matter of time before the floodgates opened.
Yet, Germany failed to really capitalize in the opening minutes of the second half. Northern Ireland continued to defend deep, and despite a couple of dangerous opportunities, they managed to hold the game at 1-0. McGovern again came up big, denying Gotze at point-blank range with a strong right hand.
Germany settled into the pattern that we saw in their opening two group games as the second half went on. They dominated possession, but they seemed to struggle creating any clear-cut opportunities.
The half lacked any real moments of quality, the one exception being a fantastic save from McGovern to deny Mario Gomez's header. Germany looked good at times, but it was pretty hard to make any definite conclusions about their chances, as they never really moved out of first gear.
Northern Ireland stay very much alive in the tournament, and the fact that they only conceded one goal could be huge if goal differential comes into play. McGovern deserves a lot of credit for his performance, but the entire team defended very well to keep Germany at bay. Now they play the waiting game to see if they make it through to the round of 16. You could certainly say they deserve it.
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