Germany may have their patience tested by a stubborn Northern Ireland when the teams meet in the final round of Euro 2020 qualifiers on Tuesday, says Andy Schooler.
Germany v Northern Ireland Tuesday, 19:45 Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Northern Ireland gave it a good go but in the end we've ended up with the exact result everyone expected in Euro 2020 qualifying group C.
The Green and White Army had a nightmare draw with both Germany and the Netherlands in their group and while they did everything they could to put pressure on the pair of giants, winning their first four games against the other teams in the pool, their inability to beat their main rivals has cost them.
Saturday's goalless draw with the Dutch was another sterling effort by Michael O'Neill's side - they started very brightly and threatened with Paddy McNair's delivery into the box causing problems - but it meant their automatic qualification hopes died with a game still to play. For them, this match is now all about preparing for the play-offs in March.
Clearly they will therefore want to avoid the sort of hammering both Estonia (8-0) and Belarus (4-0) suffered in Germany but the Irish have proved they are better than those nations and it is notable that they haven't lost a competitive game by more than two goals since 2011.
For the record, the favourite in the correct-score market here is 2-0 at 5/1, ahead of 3-0 at 11/2.
They've certainly been competitive in every match in this group with the reverse fixture lost 2-0 but that contest was only truly settled by a late second by the Germans.
While Northern Ireland have one eye on 2020, Germany still have focus on the here and now.
The goalless draw in Belfast at the weekend allowed the Germans to move top of the group and they are now eyeing a place in the top pot of seeds for the finals draw on November 30.
Midfielder Leon Goretzka vowed his side would "go full throttle from the first minute" in a bid to secure top spot.
That said, boss Joachim Low also revealed that he was "considering making a few changes".
While Germany should still have the depth to secure the win they crave, a disjointed line-up could play into the hands of those thinking a tight game could lie in store.
Expect a tight contest
While I'm not going to go so far as suggesting a lay of the hosts at 1.19 in the match betting (the draw can be backed at 8.80 and Northern Ireland at 21.00), other related angles do appeal.
Only three of Northern Ireland's seven qualifiers have seen over 2.5 goals and two of those have resulted from very late goals.
They've proven adept at keeping things tight, especially against the quality sides who they have been happy to concede possession to.
As well as recent games, that was also the case in Germany three years ago when O'Neill saw his side lose only 2-0.
Late goals likely
Under 2.5 goals here can be backed at 2.88 but my concern with this option is essentially the reason for my alternative bets.
After a hard game on Saturday which saw the Irish have just 31% of the ball, there may be some tired legs on show in the latter stages of this contest. They certainly faded having started well against the Dutch.
It was also interesting to read Goretzka's assessment of his side's 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday - a game which brought three second-half goals.
"We made the ball do the work which tired them out over the course of the game," he said. "Belarus closed the gaps really well, especially at the start of the match, but we knew that the longer the game went on, the more chances we would have and we had to take advantage of them."
I can see something similar playing out here and, with this in mind, it's worth looking at the stats which suggest most goals will come in the second half.
Both teams have seen five of seven qualifiers have more goals after the break than before it. They include all three of Northern Ireland's away fixtures.
It's also notable that five of the Irish's seven qualifiers have been goalless at the interval, including the reverse fixture.
My conclusion is therefore to back the second half to have the most goals at 10/11 with the Sportsbook and, to a smaller stake, the 0-0 half-time scoreline at 3.90 on the Exchange.