Belgium, Netherlands hit four as Germany edge closer to Euros

Gundogan ruled out for Germany ahead of crucial Northern Ireland qualifier

However, Halstenberg's first global goal three minutes into the second half and Serge Gnabry's late strike made the difference, as Germany breathed new life into their qualification campaign. In the first half, we gave them too much room.

Their 2-0 defeat to Germany in Windsor Park on Monday - in a match that they stayed right in until injury time - leaves in a hard situation with their final three games to come against the Group C heavyweights - home and away to the Netherlands and a trip to Germany. The midfielder has left the team hotel in Belfast to return home.

O'Neill's men started the campaign with four wins out of four but were facing a German side who had won the last seven matches between the teams.

"That's fine when you're playing in the middle tier of European football and we are in that middle tier, but when you come up against the big countries it's a different level".

Timo Werner had the visitors' best chance before the break but his close-range effort was saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell. "He's a young goalkeeper with not a lot of experience either at worldwide level or in first-team football".

Northern Ireland had matched the four-time World Cup winners for most of the first half, even having the better of the opening exchanges, but once left chasing the game O'Neill did not have the strength-in-depth on his bench to call on.

"We played better than on Friday, but not everything was flawless going forward, especially with that final pass".

Serge Gnabry continued his impressive scoring run for Germany, netting in second-half stoppage time for his ninth goal in his 10th worldwide, completing Germany's eighth consecutive win over Northern Ireland. "We were able to win the ball and create opportunities and did extremely well but ultimately we didn't take them".

"It was not a world-class performance, we just did what we had to do", said Belgium captain De Bruyne.

'I think it's a great achievement, ' said O'Neill.

"I was watching Cristiano Ronaldo play at 34 years of age for his country and what it means to him, and that's why global football is so special".

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