OPINION: With our Captain Fantastic, anything is possible for Northern Ireland

As Portugal showed in France last summer, it doesn't take a great deal of quality to succeed in international football.

Sunday, 26th March 2017, 10:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:23 pm
Mon of the Match Steve Davis wraps his arms around Jamie Ward, who struck on two minutes to make it 1-0. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Alright, that’s probably a bit unfair on Cristiano Ronaldo and his lot - he is the Ballon D’or holder after all.

But anyone who watched the tournament, and the GAWA saw plenty, would probably agree that Portugal weren’t exactly going to rival the Brazil team from the 70s.

A solid defence and a few players capable of creating something out of nothing can go a very, very long way.

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If the win over Norway is anything to go by, Northern Ireland have both of those boxes ticked.

That’s three World Cup qualifiers played at Windsor Park, three wins, 10 scored and zero conceded.

That last statistic is hugely sugnificant for a side who kept just a couple of clean sheets at home during the successful European Championship qualifying campaign.

Last night’s shut-out was, of course, a team effort. But the significance of Gareth McAuley daren’t be understated.

The 37 year-old oozes class with everything he does. Rarely did he look flustered, always in the right position to mop up the danger or deliver a crunching tackle when it was required.

Then at the other end of the pitch, with Steven Davis on hand, anything is possible.

The skipper delivered another Man of the Match performance. The selector for that accolade had an easy task after the masterful display in the centre of the park, epitomised by the defence-splitting ball to send Conor Washington through for his third goal in as many starts at Windsor Park.

Once he latched onto it, the in-form forward never looked like missing. His strike partner covered himself in as much glory inside two minutes as well, Jamie Ward caressing a quality finish into the bottom corner.

The DVD of that match wouldn’t sell too many copies - but that’s a compliment to a Northern Ireland performance that was comfortable from the first kick to the last .

We’re still no Brazil, not even a Portugal, but we’re solid, we’ve got Davis, and that could take us a long way - perhaps even as far as Russia.