NYON: Northern Ireland suffered their first defeat of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as Marcel Halstenberg’s thunderbolt sent Germany on their way to a 2-0 win in Belfast.
The first of four crunch fixtures against the powerhouses of Group C – Northern Ireland face Holland in Rotterdam next – ended in defeat after Serge Gnabry rolled in a second in stoppage time, but the 18,000 fans packed into Windsor Park will hardly have been discouraged given their side’s display.
Michael O’Neill’s men played with heart and desire as they were roared on by a boisterous crowd, but ultimately Germany’s superior quality saw them take control after the break.
Scotland suffered more Hampden agony as a 4-0 defeat by Belgium made it four losses from six European Championship qualifiers.
Kevin De Bruyne set up first-half goals for Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld as Scotland were punished for poor defending.
Steve Clarke’s men were more competitive after the break but De Bruyne rounded off the scoring in the 82nd minute to make it 11 Belgian goals without reply against Scotland in 12 months.
** Daniel James’s first-half goal gave Wales a 1-0 friendly victory over Belarus in Cardiff.
James has been in outstanding scoring form since his summer switch from Swansea to Manchester United, and the 21-year-old winger was on target again after 17 minutes.