WORLD CUP: ‘Emotional’ Evans’ Northern Ireland dream

Jonny Evans.
Jonny Evans.

Jonny Evans is hoping to end the “emotional” roller-coaster of Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualification push on the perfect high.

The West Bromwich Albion defender will line out at the National Stadium at Windsor Park tonight for the first of two tests over four days to define 14-plus months of graft and glory.

The long road to Russia next summer now comes down to games against Switzerland in Belfast and Basel and Evans is relishing the chance to add to his collection of international memories.

“I still get emotional,” said Evans, a part of last year’s landmark EURO 2016 finals squad. “It is a weird thing, every time we come to an international, Michael (O’Neill) gives us these motivational videos and at various times during the week you feel yourself getting emotional.

“Playing for your country does that to you, we have all come through a lot together and you get those emotions.

“It would eclipse the Euros, we don’t want to take anything away from what we achieved in the Euros but to qualify for a second successive tournament would be huge credit to the squad.

“Especially over the past couple of weeks, people have been coming up to me and wishing us luck.

“I noticed it after the game at the weekend, they just wished us all the best and said they were looking forward to watching us to see how we got on.

“To achieve something the second time round always feels better and I think we would look at qualifying for the World Cup as being better than the Euros.

“To have the hunger and desire to do that again - and for a team like us to do it again - would be an amazing achievement.”

However, despite the drive derived from representing his country on 65 senior occasions, Evans accepts the tactical tussle of a two-leg tie dictates an approach built on more than passion.

“I don’t think any past experiences will help in this situation because the reward right now is off the scale in terms of what we can achieve if we’re successful in the tie,” said Evans. “I don’t think I’ve been in a position where they’ve come so quick-fire, when a couple of days later you face the same team again.

“The most important thing is not to get carried away in the first game and lose sight of the following game, in terms of suspensions and things.”