Football: Irish to play the German way

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The Independent Online
Bryan Hamilton plans to copy the main ingredient of German success in an attempt to put Northern Ireland's qualifying challenge back on track in Nuremberg today.

Hamilton openly admits his admiration for the European champions, who will be returning to home soil for the first time since their Euro 96 triumph.

"Despite their great individuals, the emphasis is always on team work and togetherness. That's something I have tried hard to instill into my players," said Hamilton, who knows that a defeat will kill any hope of qualification following a 1-0 home loss to Ukraine and a 1-1 draw with Armenia.

The Irish go into the game with a remarkable record of not having lost in any of their last four meetings with the Germans, and two victories at the qualifying stage of the 1984 European Championship installed them as the only team to have ever recorded such a double over a nation always at the top of the international ladder. "I hope our recent good record plays on their minds," said Hamilton, whose side forced a 1-1 draw against Vogts' men in a pre-Euro 96 friendly in Belfast.

Hamilton is withholding his team selection, but Nigel Worthington is expected to replace the unwell Keith Rowland at left back, while the Leicester defender Colin Hill could be given a midfield role. That would mean the captain, Iain Dowie, ploughing a lone furrow up front, with Keith Gillespie and Michael Hughes given orders to support quickly on the counter-attack.

Germany are beset by injury problems, with Christian Ziege, Matthias Sammer, Mehmet Scholl, Mario Basler, Thomas Helmer and Steffen Freund all ruled out. The midfielder Dieter Eilts is also struggling with a knee problem.



(at Frankenstadion, Nuremberg; today, 4.30 GMT)

Group Nine

P W D L F A Pts

Ukraine 2 2 0 0 3 1 6

Portugal 3 1 1 1 4 2 4

Germany 1 1 0 0 5 1 3

Armenia 3 0 2 1 2 6 2

N Ireland 2 0 1 1 1 2 1

Albania 1 0 0 1 0 3 0

RESULTS: 1996: 31 Aug: Northern Ireland 0 Ukraine 1 (Rebrov 79); Armenia 0 Portugal 0. 5 Oct: Northern Ireland 1 (Lennon 30) Armenia 1 (Assadourian 8); Ukraine 2 (Popov 5, Maximov 88) Portugal 1 (Figo 83); Albania 0 Portugal 3 (Figo 11, Helder 77, Rui Costa 89). 9 Oct: Armenia 1 (Mikaelyan 85) Germany 5 (Hassler 20, 39, Klinsmann 26, Bobic 69, Kuntz 80).

FIXTURES: Today: Albania v Armenia; Germany v Northern Ireland; Portugal v Ukraine. 14 Dec: Northern Ireland v Albania; Portugal v Germany. 1997: 29 Mar: Albania v Ukraine; Northern Ireland v Portugal. 2 Apr: Albania v Germany; Ukraine v Northern Ireland. 30 Apr: Germany v Ukraine; Armenia v Northern Ireland. 7 May: Ukraine v Armenia. 7 June: Ukraine v Armenia; Portugal v Albania. 20 Aug: Northern Ireland v Germany; Portugal v Armenia; Ukraine v Albania. 6 Sept: Germany v Portugal; Armenia v Albania. 10 Sept: Albania v Northern Ireland; Germany v Armenia. 11 Oct: Germany v Albania; Portugal v Northern Ireland; Armenia v Ukraine.