Conor McLaughlin insists Northern Ireland will ‘relish the challenge’ when they feature in the 2016 European Championships in France after being pitched in against some of the best teams on the planet.
Michael O’Neill’s men must contend with current world champions Germany, Poland and the Ukraine in the summer, but the 24-year-old McLaughlin believes Northern Ireland will rise to the occasion.
“I was pinching myself myself after that draw in Paris,” said McLaughlin.
“Regardless of the opposition, there were no easy games.
“So we must relish the prospect of facing the world champions, Poland and the Ukraine. When you qualify for a major tournament that’s what you’ve got to expect.
“If we are able to get a couple of results, perhaps a win and a draw, that should be enough to take us through to the knockout stages.
“We showed what we are about in the qualifying campaign - we must adopt a similar mindset.”
McLaughlin insists it’s every footballer’s dream to feature in a major international tournament. He will urge his team-mates to embrace the occasion, rather than fear it.
He added: “You’ve got to relish it. “Why would you fear it?
“These are the games you want to play in.
“As a kid, when you wanted to play football when you were younger, you wanted to play against the best teams. I don’t think anybody should be afraid.
“We’ve not qualified for a major championship for a long time. We want to go there, enjoy it but make our mark as well.”
McLaughlin is also happy for the chance to put little unfashionable Fleetwood Town on the soccer map.
“It’ll be brilliant for the club,” he added. “They helped me, gave me a chance when I was released from Preston.
“When the names are there on the backs of the programmes, you’ll have the clubs as well. It’ll be brilliant to see Fleetwood there represented at the European Championships.”