Michael O’Neill has said that Northern Ireland’s heavy 6-1 defeat in Germany will have no impact on their Euro 2020 play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick, Leon Goretzka got two and Julian Brandt was on target after Michael Smith had opened the scoring in Frankfurt.
Despite the score, O’Neill was pleased with how his side performed – with several key players missing.
“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.”
Blackpool’s Jordan Thompson and Sunderland’s Tom Flanagan were handed their first competitive starts with Jonny Evans, Stuart Dallas and Jamal Lewis all missing from the matchday squad.
“I thought there were several positive aspects in the first half but ultimately we were missing five or six players,” added O’Neill, who will return as NI boss for the play-off after being named Stoke City manager.
“We probably had three of our first-choice back four unavailable tonight, but I was really pleased with Jordan Thompson. I thought he did really well in the game.
“What that did show is that we don’t have the strength in depth to deal with this quality of opposition. It was a tough learning curve for them.
“We had a double-header against the Netherlands and Germany, and it shows that we need to be at full strength to deal with this quality of opposition.”
Germany goals ‘were preventable’
O’Neill suffered the heaviest competitive defeat of his eight-year reign as the Northern Ireland boss and admitted it was a difficult night to endure.
“You never want to get beaten 6-1 and it was tough in the second half particularly,” said the 50-year-old.
“The two goals either side of half-time made it very difficult for us mentally and you could see the energy levels of the players drain after that.
“When you look back at the goals, you always feel that they are preventable and we weren’t able to defend key areas of the box at the right times.”
Northern Ireland’s hopes of qualifying directly for Euro 2020 were ended with their 0-0 draw against the Netherlands at Windsor Park on Saturday, but Wales’ victory over Hungary ensured that O’Neill’s outfit will return to Sarajevo for the play-off semi-final.
Bosnia twice beat Northern Ireland in the inaugural Nations League last year but O’Neill says that reaching the Euro 2020 finals is a realistic target.
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“When the Bosnia game comes around in March, we have to aim to have our key players fit,” he said.
“We’ve played in Sarajevo before, so we know what to expect. It will be a very tough game but it is one that I feel we can win.
“We lost both games to Bosnia in the Nations League but we dominated the home game and we had chances in the away game as well.
“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.”
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