Michael O’Neill has warned that his side the test starts today as Northern Ireland prepare to face Germany in Monday’s crunch European Qualifier.
The White and Green Army have placed themselves in the best position to reach next summer’s final with four wins from four away up next and so far in Group C games against Germany and the Netherlands home.
When Germany would be the visitors to Windsor Park the critical run of fittings commence on Monday, also O’Neill knows his group – which has witnessed a great deal of turnover since Euro 2016 – face their greatest test yet.
“I don’t think we’ve got the amount of expertise (compared to past time),” O’Neill explained.
“We’ve not substituted Brunt with a skilled player. We have not substituted McAuley having an experienced player. We have not replaced Hughes having a seasoned player.
“Potentially, for a number of our lads to be thrown to the match is going to be a huge step up in quality.
“We will not have the exact identical level of worldwide experience. It takes time. What we do need is energy in the legs than we have ever had in my time. We have been given that by the players.
“I would not say we’re more powerful but we have the capability to be stronger.”
After they surrendered an early direct to lose 4-2 at home to the 39, joachim Low’s side won their opening three qualifiers, including an opening triumph in Holland, but suffered a setback on Friday night.
“It will be quite a different Germany group than we have played in our previous few experiences,” O’Neill said.
“The big names that won the World Cup, there is not many left. Toni Kroos is possibly the only one besides (Manuel) Neuer.
“But Germany will turn around their squad in three months and pick an extremely solid squad with the level of assets they have.
“We have to drip-feed players over a lengthy period of time and provide players the opportunity when we’re not sure if they’re ready or not.”