EURO 2016: Work-rate is Northern Ireland’s key asset, admits Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward in action against Poland
Jamie Ward in action against Poland

Jamie Ward has warned Germany’s star midfielders that time on the ball will not be a luxury they are afforded by the industrious Northern Ireland.

Michael O’Neill’s men head for Paris on Monday morning ahead of a clash against the world champions the following day, with a last-16 berth at Euro 2016 still a possibility for both nations.

A shock Northern Ireland victory may not be required for them to advance, though three points would guarantee their progress on an evening when they are anticipating another 90-minute shift largely spent without the ball.

Their opponents Poland and Ukraine had at least 60 per cent of possession in both of their opening two Group C games and the Germans, who boast Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira in their midfield, have a competition-high 63 per cent of possession after the two fixtures.

However, while winger Ward knows Northern Ireland may not induce much fear for the reigning World Cup holders, he believes their energy might take them aback.

“It’s probably our work-rate,” Ward said when asked what Germany should fear about his team.

“We’re a hard-working team, we don’t like to give people time on the ball so it might be something a little bit different from what the Germans have experienced in the past. Apart from that...probably not much else!”

Blackburn’s Corry Evans, who will be part of the midfield tasked with restricting the influence of Kroos and Co if he keeps his starting berth, accepts Northern Ireland will likely surrender the majority of possession to their opponents, though he thinks that suits them just fine.

“We’ve had probably the least possession out of the group so far; we know we’re not going to dominate games with the ball,” Evans stated.

“Our strengths are out of possession, pressing and getting around our opponents and making it difficult.

“The Germans might not have faced that yet and hopefully we can surprise them on Tuesday.”

A potentially historic night may produce more emotions for Corry Evans’ brother Jonny Evans, who revealed beating Ukraine in Lyon alongside his sibling had moved him to tears.

There was no chance that was going to affect his kid brother, though.

“I went over to him after the game and he started crying and hugging me,” Corry Evans added.

“I went, ‘What are you crying for?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, I can’t stop crying’. He’s obviously the emotional one of the family...I’m a bit colder!”