Michael McGovern’s Northern Ireland suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of World Champions Germany this evening, but the match did confirm their play-off place in Group C.
McGovern could do nothing to prevent Germany from taking the lead inside two minutes when Sebastian Rudy scored with a stunning strike from 30 yards.
Sandro Wagner doubled the visitors’ lead midway through the first half before Joshua Kimmich sealed the victory in the final few minutes - Josh Magennis scored a late consolation for the hosts.
Despite the defeat, Northern Ireland will face a two-legged play-off match to qualify for Russia 2018 once their group stage campaign concludes with a visit to Norway on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Grant Hanley had a watching brief as Scotland secured a vital victory at home to Slovakia in Group F as they enhanced their hopes of a play-off place.
A late Martin Skrtel own goal was the difference at Hampden Park and second place in the group is now firmly in the hands of the Tartan Army, heading into their final match against Slovenia on Sunday.