Germany praise Northern Ireland keeper

Germany's Thomas Mueller collides with Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael Mcgovern left during the Euro 2016 Group C soccer match between Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland need not care it lost.

Turkey finished third, after beating the Czech Republic 2-0 thanks to goals from Burak Yilmaz and Ozan Tufan.

But sit below Northern Ireland in the pecking order for the third placed slots.

“With all due respect to Northern Ireland, who did very well in qualifying, they were always going to throw everything into this match because it’s the game of their lives”, he said.

Northern Ireland, making their first appearance at a major worldwide tournament since the 1986 World Cup, will now either face Wales at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday or France in Lyon on Sunday.

McGovern’s unexpected impact is such that Germany’s World Cup-winning coach Joachim Loew was asked if he knew of the ‘keeper who was playing in only a 14th worldwide match. “We could have had 3-0 or 4-0 at halftime”.

The keeper made world class saves from Mario Gotze and Mario Gomez, with the latter the only player to beat him. Gomez side-footed his shot home after Thomas Mueller’s run across the penalty area drew the goalkeeper and two defenders out of position.

McGovern was solicited three times in the first 12 minutes, saving alertly with his body and feet from Gomez, Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze, who dropped into an attacking midfield role to accommodate Gomez up front. We weren’t able to get a result today but we knew that goal difference could potentially play an important role.

His contract with Hamilton is due to expire next week and O’Neill said that he was likely to attract interest from teams on both sides of the border.

“We hung in there and defended great”.

McGovern could now land himself a big move after putting himself in the shop window with his performance against Germany.

A plunging save to keep out a Gomez header during the second half ranked as his finest moment in a stellar body of work for McGovern, who departed with a cherished memento. Aged 31, McGovern was protected by two 36-year-olds in defence – a hint at the hard-work ethos that has served Northern Ireland well in its first major tournament in 30 years.

Mueller also struck the goal frame twice in the first half, as Germany’s relentless forward pressure faded near the end of the match.

“Michael had a fantastic night in goal, he’s had a fantastic tournament”, said O’Neill.

Asked whether the Parc des Princes witnessed him at his very best on Monday, he said: “Yeah, if you take into account the stage we’re on and the level of opposition I really enjoyed it”.

This mentality, fighting to the finish in everything they do, is what brought them their reward – a match against either France or Wales – and means that when the knockout round comes, they will be no pushovers and might just add another chapter to their fairytale.