Belfast (AFP) – Joachim Loew said Wednesday he hopes Germany — on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia — can restore national pride in Northern Ireland after an “alarming” series of results for the nation’s club sides in Europe.
Germany, on 24 points, have won all eight of their qualifiers but have still not sewn up top spot in Group C because Northern Ireland have accrued 19 points themselves.
Anything but a defeat for the Germans will guarantee their place in Russia next year to defend the title they won in Brazil in 2014.
Northern Ireland have guaranteed a top-two spot in Group C and would seal one of the eight play-off berths if they win on Thursday.
Yet despite international success, Loew is worried by the state of Germany’s clubs after Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and Cologne were all beaten in the Champions League or Europa League last week.
Bayern’s victory against Anderlecht is the only win a German side has managed in a continental group game this term, while there have been nine defeats, and that is troubling the national coach.
“The weak performances of German clubs in Europe is hopefully just a momentary blip, but it is alarming,” Loew said.
“Is it a general trend? I would say it’s too early. (But) for a while now we’ve been thinking about how to improve things in the Bundesliga and it’s wrong to praise the Bundesliga to high heaven or say only the Bundesliga produces the best talent.
“That would be untrue and people who say this have been humbled by this experience. We have to recognise this.”
Loew said it was up to the national team to fly the flag for the German game.
“I think what my team have to do, and have done over the last eight matches, is to represent German football the best way we can,” he said.
“This is our task, to provide people back home with enjoyment of what German football should be about.”
Germany have never lost an away World Cup qualifier but Michael O’Neill has told his Northern Ireland players the world champions are “formidable but not invincible”.
O’Neill has previously joked he would have to invent flaws in the Germans, yet having won a national record five successive games and not lost a competitive home contest in four years, his side have belief.
“We’re under no illusion. We’re not going to come in and suddenly have 60 per cent of the ball, there’s no point preparing as if we are,” he said.
“We know the areas where we believe we can hurt Germany. It will need a massive performance and some fine individual moments to win the game.”
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