Hearts defender Aaron Hughes is set to become the most-capped British defender of all time against world champions Germany next month.
The 38-year-old centre-half won his 108 th cap on Monday night when helping Northern Ireland secure second spot in Group C with a 2-0 win over Czech Republic.
It means he has already equalled legendary England World Cup-winning skipper Bobby Moore’s record of 108 caps.
The result at Windsor Park against the Czech continues a remarkable run for Edinburgh-based Michael O’Neill’s side.
Northern Ireland have conceded only two goals in their qualification campaign to date.
As well as picking up a fifth successive competitive win they racked up a fifth clean sheet on Monday. Former Hamilton Accies ‘keeper Michael McGovern has not conceded a goal for over 10 hours.
Hughes has been at the heart of the run en route to drawing level with Moore.
The Hearts player will surpass the late England defender’s total of 108 appearances if he plays against Germany at Windsor Park next month. Northern Ireland then face Norway away four days later.
“Aaron slotted in beside Jonny Evans, recently valued at over £25 million, and even aged 38 doesn’t look out of place – they formed a magnificent partnership,” said current Hearts coach Austin MacPhee, who also doubles up as Northern Ireland’s assistant manager.
“Sometimes defenders tend to play deeper when they get older, but Aaron still plays on the front foot at 38. He is not yet doing a Franco Baresi or a Willie Miller and retreating further to sweeper.
“He can still do all aspects of defending at his age. It’s a tribute to how well he looks after himself.”
Providing he remains fit, Hughes is likely to feature in both Northern Ireland games next month as O’Neill’s side seek to confirm a play-off spot. English Premier League pair Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart missed the double header with San Marino and Czech Republic and the centre-halves could be struggling to regain fitness in four weeks.
Hughes is in line to make only his third appearance of the season for Hearts against Aberdeen at BT Murrayfield this weekend.