WORLD CUP: Norway win key on road to Russia

Michael O'Neill at the Northern Ireland squad press conference ahead of the Norway clash. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Michael O'Neill at the Northern Ireland squad press conference ahead of the Norway clash. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is happy to call on old lessons as part of the new year’s plan for progress towards World Cup qualification.

Victory at the National Stadium on Sunday, March 26 would provide Northern Ireland with a perfect start to 2017 and establish a seven-point gap in the Group C standings over visitors Norway.

O’Neill has highlighted the qualification run to last year’s landmark EURO 2016 appearance and importance of momentum as Northern Ireland recovered from defeat to Romania by beating Finland.

“When you look back, we made a fantastic start but you lose the fourth game and come into the fifth and it’s a momentum thing,” he said. “We know victory in this game will give us a seven-point gap over Norway, which is a lot to make up over five games.

“Czech Republic will beat San Marino, you would expect Germany to beat Azerbaijan, so we can really strengthen our hold on second, stay ahead of the Czech Republic and distance ourself from Norway.

“The next game will take care of itself, the timing of the game is unkind to us, someone had to go there in June.

“But the other side of that is you could be going to Azerbaijan as the second game in a double-header with a two-day recovery and five-hour flight.

“The key is to win your game at home because the focus of the players is so high it will take care of itself with Azerbaijan.”