Michael McGovern is confident cool heads will prevail in Norway as half-a-dozen Northern Ireland players prepare to once more walk a disciplinary tightrope that could dash their World Cup dream.
A place in November’s play-offs remains tantalisingly close for Michael O’Neill’s side, and would even be confirmed before they play in Oslo on Sunday night if Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina fail to win in Group H 24 hours earlier.
Even then, with the draw for the play-offs seeded, O’Neill is likely to field his strongest possible side against the Norwegians, meaning he could again risk the already-cautioned Jonny Evans, Steven Davis, Corry Evans, Oliver Norwood, Stuart Dallas and Josh Magennis.
Another booking for any of those key players would rule them out of the first leg of any potential play-off fixture, when the lack of depth available to O’Neill would make succeeding all the trickier.
“I think everyone will keep a cool head,” McGovern said.
“At times in football you get booked for small things, especially in international football. The rule is very harsh, but it’s the rule and we can’t complain about it.
“The bookings carry on into the play-offs so it is incredibly harsh, but it was good we didn’t pick up any cards against Germany.
“We have such a small squad, we can’t afford to lose too many players, but it gives other boys a chance to step up.”
McGovern himself benefited from an absence two years ago when Roy Carroll’s injury presented him with an opportunity to take a starting berth he has not relinquished since.
And Kyle Lafferty’s ban for a qualifier with Greece a few months later allowed Magennis to come in and score the first of his four international goals.
“It just shows what can happen – just look at Josh now and what he’s doing,” McGovern said.
“Let’s hope nobody gets suspended, but if they do it’s an opportunity for others to come in.”
Norwich keeper McGovern’s streak of having not conceded in over 10 hours of international football was ended inside two minutes against Germany on Thursday night when Sebastian Rudy’s unstoppable attempt was lashed into the top corner.
McGovern would be beaten on another two occasions but other saves to deny Sandro Wagner and Thomas Muller stopped O’Neill’s men from a potentially embarrassing scoreline.
While McGovern is in awe of Die Mannschaft’s talent, he also hopes they are kept far away from Northern Ireland when further group draws are made.
“I have seen enough of them now,” he joked.
“It’s just difficult playing them, mentality it’s very difficult. They are such a great team and those are the teams when I finish playing football I’ll be like, ‘Wow, I played against those players’. It’s an honour.”