AS far as learning curves go Ryan McGivern admits last month’s World Cup showdown with Portugal was as steep as it could possibly get.
McGivern earned rave reviews as he and his defensive colleagues thwarted the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in Oporto.
Niall McGinn’s goal ensured Northern Ireland claimed a remarkable point to inject some life into their Group F campaign.
And hopes are high they can carry that momentum into Wednesday night’s clash with Azerbaijan at Windsor Park.
“Portugal was a good experience and a great result,” McGivern said.
“It was great to be part of it. Personally, it was a fantastic experience – probably one of the highlights of my career so far.
“It was a great team performance. Portugal were ranked three in the world at the time, and for us to go there and get a point was a good result – I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get all three.”
McGivern admits the 1-1 draw was a timely shot in the arm as far as his own international prospects are concerned.
The 22-year-old has repaid the faith shown in him by international manager Michael O’Neill, and he hopes to continue that in the remainder of the campaign.
“Yes, it’s given me a bit of confidence. Marking two of the top wingers in the game was a big learning curve for me,” he added.
“Nani and Ronaldo, who’s one of the best players in the world along with Messi, are fantastic players. If I managed to keep the two of them quiet enough for 90 minutes it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of my career.”
FULL INTERVIEW IN TUESDAY’S NEWS LETTER