WORLD CUP: O’Neill daring to dream of another Northern Ireland glory game

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Michael O’Neill is backing his Northern Ireland players to deliver in both Belfast and Basel and end another demanding international qualifying campaign in dreamland.

Switzerland arrive at the National Stadium on November 9 for the qualifying play-off first leg and O’Neill is determined to see the road to Russia result in a World Cup finals appearance.

A landmark march to the EURO 2016 finals provided a generation of players with moments to savour and O’Neill accepts the task is to, once again, rise to the challenge.

“This team has punched above its weight and they enjoy that scenario,” said the Northern Ireland manager. “We are not the favourites, we are playing against a squad which has consistently been in the top 10 in the world for a long time.

“But we respond to that challenge, we’ve seen that throughout this campaign and we’ll have to see it again.

“It would be everything, the Euros was a fabulous experience for everyone concerned, it was my first experience of a major tournament and for all our players it was their first experience.

“The World Cup is even a level above that and the players recognise that, when you have put so much into the past 13 or 14 months and dug out results when you needed to be difficult to beat you want to get over the final hurdle but the prize is massive.

“Thirteen months ago you would have taken a play-off against anyone.

“I think teams probably would have liked to play Northern Ireland when they looked at the options but, if they look at our group, they’ll know that we’re a difficult team to play against, a difficult team to beat.”