Conor McLaughlin wary of Erling Haaland threat
The Borussia Dortmund forward may still only be 20, but McLaughlin believes he already ranks alongside the likes of Robert Lewandowski after exploding on to the scene in the past two years – and bagging his first international hat-trick at the weekend against Romania.
McLaughlin did not feature in Northern Ireland’s 5-1 home defeat to Norway last month, when Haaland scored two and created two more, but saw enough from the sidelines.
“He’s right up there,” McLaughlin said when asked where Haaland ranks.
“He’s probably one of the fastest players I have seen live, his finishing as well.
“When I went back to my club after the last game, I said to a couple of the lads, him and Lewandowski, when we played against him for Poland, they are two of the best strikers I have seen.”
Given the ease with which Norway were able to rip through Northern Ireland at Windsor Park a month ago, the scale of the task in Oslo tonight is obvious, and McLaughlin said it would be down to the whole team to defend.
“It’s obviously going to be difficult,” he said. “It has to be a team effort and if we have a good shape, it makes it hard for teams.
“When we played against Poland, Lewandowski didn’t score in that game, and it is possible to shackle players like that if the team works hard and keeps in a good shape.
“But they are quality players and on their day, they are very hard to stop.”
McLaughlin played the full 90 minutes of Northern Ireland’s 1-0 defeat to Austria on Sunday night, a flat performance after the highs of the Euro 2020 qualifying play-off semi-final victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in a penalty shoot-out on Thursday.
Defeat was a sixth in seven outings for Northern Ireland in the Nations League, with last month’s 1-1 draw in Romania their only point to date in the brief history of the competition.
That has raised questions of whether the team approach the tournament differently, but McLaughlin insisted it was taken seriously.
“We as players want to correct what we’ve shown so far in the Nations League, so hopefully we will go out and put in a good performance on Wednesday in Oslo,” he said.
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