Euro 2020 qualifying: NI won't give up hope, says McNair

Serge Gnabry scores Germany's second goal against Northern Ireland
Goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry sent Germany above Northern Ireland at the top of Group C in Euro 2020 qualifying

Paddy McNair says that Northern Ireland "aren't going to be disheartened" after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Germany.

Northern Ireland won their first four Euro 2020 qualifying games against Estonia and Belarus to top Group C.

However, goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry were a major blow to NI's qualifying hopes with two games against the Netherlands to come.

"We would have taken this position at the start of the campaign," said McNair.

Monday's result saw the Germans move top of Group C, level with Northern Ireland on 12 points from five games.

The Middlesbrough midfielder has told his Northern Ireland team-mates to keep believing they can qualify for Euro 2020, even with two fixtures against the in-form Netherlands and a trip away to Germany to come.

Conor Washinton
Conor Washinton missed two first-half chances to put Northern Ireland into the lead against Germany

"We'll give them all a tough game," added McNair on Northern Ireland's final three fixtures.

"There are plenty of positives and we move on to next month."

A frustrated O'Neill called the game a "missed opportunity" in the immediate aftermath, given the chances Northern Ireland created, including two openings for Conor Washington, during a strong start to the night.

"It's really small margins in the game, but I thought we were brilliant in the first half," McNair added.

"It's definitely a massive improvement. Even in the second half, Stuart (Dallas) shot a yard wide and that could easily go the other side of the post which makes it a different game again."

Northern Ireland might also have had the chance to level from the penalty spot just before the hour when McNair tumbled under a challenge from Toni Kroos, but referee Daniel Orsato waved away their appeals.

"I haven't seen the penalty incident again, but I certainly felt a bit of contact," said McNair.

"There wasn't much contact, but I went down. I didn't want to be in a situation where the ref thought it was a dive and then sent me off for a second booking, but I didn't want him to think there was no contact because I did feel it.

"It wasn't much, but I understand why the referee didn't give it. There was contact, though, I've no doubt about that. Maybe VAR would have cleared that up."

Paddy McNair
McNair scored a late winner against Belarus to send Northern Ireland top of Group C after four games

Dallas fired wide shortly after, but that was the last clear chance for the hosts before Gnabry settled matters in stoppage time.

"It's a good sign coming out of a game thinking we definitely should have taken something from it," McNair added.

"It is definitely our best performance against them in recent meetings, but you can't help but feel it was a missed opportunity.

"But we're still joint top of the group. I know we have three difficult games coming up, but we have to stay positive considering the position we have put ourselves in."