Martin O’Neill joked that the Republic of Ireland should be handed the Euro 2016 trophy after a thrilling victory over world champions Germany.
Substitute Shane Long’s sumptuous strike secured a 1-0 win over the Group D leaders to go with the draw they claimed in Gelsenkirchen 12 months ago and secured a play-off berth at worst with Sunday’s trip to Poland to come.
O’Neill said: “I’m ecstatic that we have won the game. You would think that beating the Germans and not being beaten by them at all, the world champions, you would think that would be at least deserving of winning the tournament.
“But it’s not the case – we haven’t even qualified. But it’s been a great effort and the players showed great courage, great determination and some ability too to conjure up the win.”
Long’s decisive intervention came after he ran on to substitute keeper Darren Randolph’s long clearance and smashed an unstoppable 70th-minute shot past Manuel Neuer on a night when the Germans dominated at the Aviva Stadium, but could not convert any of the chances they created.
Disappointed Germany manager Joachim Low said: “If you ask me for lessons to be learnt, well let me say that despite creating loads of chances, we just wasted too many of them because that final through-ball didn’t reach the guy from our own team.
“Against opponents like these, we need to score and try not to make any mistakes. We avoided 99 of those long balls and kept possession, but the 100th long ball was one too many.”
O’Neill, who had gone into the game without defenders Seamus Coleman and Ciaran Clark through injury and midfielders Glenn Whelan and James McClean because of suspension, was thrilled with the battling qualities shown by his players, but raised an eyebrow at his opposite number’s assessment of the game.
He said with a smile: “I’m not even sure that we kicked it 100 times long.
“He [Low] has just gone out, he congratulated me, so whatever he said in here has been totally different to what he said there before.
“He’s won the World Cup, he’s entitled to a fairly decent opinion about the game, and we were brilliant.”