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Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis hailed his side after Monday's 2-0 Euro qualifier defeat to three-time European champions Germany at Windsor Park.
After a goalless first half, Marcel Halstenberg opened the scoring on 48 minutes with a brilliant half-volley, and Serge Gnabry added a second in injury-time to lift Germany above Northern Ireland at the top of Group C on goal difference.
It means Northern Ireland have lost their last eight competitive matches against Germany, but Davis was impressed by the way his side competed against a technically superior team.
"We had a real good tempo and intensity in the first half but in the second half it got stretched," he told Sky Sports.
"That suited them. Listen they are top quality and we knew it would be tough. That is the best we have played against Germany."
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill rued the two chances Conor Washington missed in the opening 45 minutes.
"They gave everything," O'Neill told Sky Sports.
"First half we were magnificent and should have been ahead in the game. It was a missed opportunity on reflection
"We didn't take our chances and we were punished.
"Maybe Germany lifted it a gear and it was a magnificent goal, albeit preventable. We came again, tried to press the game and we had more good chances.
"It wasn't to be. We are playing against some of the best players in Europe but we managed to stop them. It's very hard to do that for 90 minutes. They have got very clever players."
O'Neill's side, who won their first four matches in the group by beating Estonia and Belarus home and away, next face the Netherlands in Rotterdam on 10 October, before a home game with Ronald Koeman's side on 16 November and a rematch with Germany three days later in Frankfurt.
Netherlands sit third on nine points after Monday's 4-0 win over Estonia.
By Nick Royle
Photo: Inpho/Presseye/William Cherry