Michael O'Neill announces Northern Ireland squad for Germany and Norway double-headerMon, Sep 25 2017
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has announced a 26-man squad for next month’s final set of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifiers.
The double-header begins with the World Champions Germany coming to Windsor Park on Thursday 5 November followed by with a trip three days later to Norway to round off the qualifiers.
Northern Ireland have already secured second place in Group C and look set to take part in November’s play-offs but aren’t quite over the line yet.
Back into the squad is West Brom defender Gareth McAuley who missed out on the September 3-0 win in San Marino and the 2-0 victory over Czech Republic in Belfast.
O’Neill has also brought in two uncapped midfielders – Jordan Jones of Kilmarnock and Millwall’s George Saville.
"Just having Gareth available is a big plus for us,” O'Neill said of the return of McAuley when speaking to irishfa.com.
“He's such a presence, such a leader on the pitch.
"We've missed him even though the results have been good. It's always good to have your big players available and Gareth is one of those."
O’Neill will have to do without a quartet players due to injury as defender Craig Cathcart misses out, along with more long term absentees Liam Boyce, Jamie Ward and Paddy McNair.
The Green and White Army have a superb recent record in qualifier action, with a record five consecutive competitive wins and a clean sheet in each of those victories.
"We've been great at home and won the four games at home with not conceding a goal,” said O’Neill.
"Certainly if we don't concede against Germany that'll mean we've taken something from the game.
"I think Germany are the best team in the world at the minute in international football and it'll be a huge challenge for us."
Top spot looks to be beyond Northern Ireland who will need to win their last two games and hope the World Champions, as well as losing in Belfast, are defeated at home to Azerbaijan in Kaiserslautern in their final game.
Germany beat Northern Ireland 2-0 in Hannover earlier in the campaign. The sides also met at last year’s European Championship in France.
Goalkeeper Michael McGovern was man of the match after pulling off a string of top class saves in the 1-0 win for Germany at the Parc des Princes.
Northern Ireland squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Linfield), Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone)
Defenders: Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Lee Hodson (Rangers), Daniel Lafferty (Sheffield United), Adam Thompson (Bradford City on loan from Bury), Tom Flanagan (Burton Albion), Gareth McAuley (West Brom)
Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Gwangju), Oliver Norwood (Brighton & Hove Albion), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Paul Paton (St. Johnstone), Matthew Lund (Burton Albion), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), George Saville (Millwall)
Forwards:Kyle Lafferty (Hearts), Josh Magennis (Charlton), Conor Washington (QPR), Shay McCartan (Bradford).