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Group C

World Cup qualifying: Northern Ireland expecting German backlash

After a perfect start to their 2018 qualifying campaign, Germany will be up against familiar foes in Hanover this evening. Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill is anticipating a "backlash" from the world champions.

Successive 3-0 wins over Norway and the Czech Republic leave Germany sitting pretty at the top of a group that looked weak when it was drawn and looks even less challenging after the Czechs' insipid display on Saturday.

The match will be the first time Germany have played in Hanover since a bomb threat forced the last-minute cancellation of a friendly match with the Netherlands last year. Germany head coach Joachim Löw said on Monday that his team have "mentally dealt with the events from last year" and are "just focused on the game now."

Löw was impressed by his side's display at the weekend and expects more of the same.

"We played really well against Czech Republic," the 56-year-old said. "Northern Ireland will defend very deep and have a lot of players who are good in the air."

With Löw expecting a defensive display from his opponents, center back Mats Hummels may not be unduly troubled. But the Bayern Munich man insists complacency won't become an issue for him or the team.

"We are highly motivated. We want to show that we are one of the best teams in the world," he said on Monday. "We've been favorites in almost every game we've played for years now. Nothing has changed."

These teams met just 112 days ago when a Mario Gomez goal proved enough for Germany to win the group stage encounter. In truth, 1-0 probably wasn't a fair reflection of die Mannschaft's dominance.

Northern Ireland's last win against Germany came in qualifying for the 1984 European Championships, when they beat the Germans twice. But Germany have won nine of the 15 encounters between the two nations.

Frankreich Fußball-EM Deutschland vs. Nordirland

A Mario Gomez goal was enough for Germany to beat Northern Ireland at Euro 2016

Although O'Neill accepts that the proximity to their last meeting might help him set up his team, he expects Germany's failure to add the Euro 2016 title to their 2014 World Cup triumph will add fuel to the hosts' fire.

"We played them recently in the Euros - that's a big thing in our favor," he said. "If you look at their first two games, they're reacting, possibly, to not having won in France.

"We have to be ready for that backlash, because I think they've started this campaign in a different mindset than possibly they did for the Euros when they dropped points against teams that I think they wouldn't normally do."

O'Neill will be without Will Grigg, the striker who inspired the ubiquitous Euro 2016 chant, as Grigg's partner has recently given birth. In Grigg's absence, Kyle Lafferty of Norwich City, Conor Washington of Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United's Stuart Dallas will be vying to start up front against Germany.

Germany had fitness doubts over Jerome Boateng and Jonas Hector but Löw confirmed he has a fully fit squad to choose from. He also praised Mario Götze's performance against the Czechs, suggesting the Borussia Dortmund man may start up front again on Tuesday.

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