Germany qualify with 3-1 win over N.Ireland

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Kyle Lafferty, Gareth McAuley and Lee Hodson came into the Northern Ireland side, while Marvin Plattenhardt, Jerome Boateng and Leon Goretzka got the nod for the world champions.

But the fact all seven players one booking away from missing the trip to Norway avoided the referee's notebook was the biggest result of the night.

Manager Michael O'Neill says that's something they'll have one eye on...

O'Neill will assess the situation after the other teams have played tonight before finalising his team selection.

He's not pondering permutations too much, admitting: "It's very hard to really see".

Expectations levels have gone through the roof but far from being burdened by it, O'Neill and his players take pleasure from the fact it is their almighty punching above their weight on a regular basis that creates it.

"When it gets to that point the main thing is to focus on ourselves".

The other game in the group sees Czech Republic host San Marino, who have lost all nine of their matches and have a goal difference of minus 44.

"We had two League One players and Championship players, they don't play that style, players of that calibre".

'In football, sometimes you can get booked for small things, especially at global level. The captain, Steven Davis, and the influential defender Jonny Evans are among the half-dozen who could miss the play-off first leg by collecting a yellow card in Oslo.

"It's the worst start we could have had", O'Neill admitted. We're in the middle of that. It's a huge education for our players and it will acquit us well.

Germany go into their final group game at home to Azerbaijan on Sunday as Northern Ireland will also complete their campaign in Norway same day.

"It would be fantastic for us".

Germany hardly brought a top-choice team to Northern Ireland, playing without stars like Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan, Timo Werner, Mario Gomez and Andre Shurrle, not to mention Shkodran Mustafi, Emre Can, Matthias Ginter, Julian Brandt and Leroy Sané starting on the bench. In football sometimes you can get booked for small things, especially at worldwide level.

March 2017: Lars Lagerback's first game in charge of Norway ended in a 2-0 defeat in Belfast.

"It never gave us a chance to settle, the approach we had was created to stay in the game as long as possible, you can't go and chase it too early against a team of this quality".

But there was consolation for Northern Ireland when Josh Magennis headed the ball home in the third minute of added time. They are now seeking to have their best ever qualification campaign for a World Cup.

"There is hardly any gap between us and them but with the World Cup coming up, we need to improve in many areas".

Another opportunity to make it 2-1 was passed up, substitute Conor Washington side-stepping Jerome Boateng easily only to lash his attempt on to the frame of the goal.

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