‘We haven’t landed any knockout blow yet’ insists Brunt ahead of Finland test

Chris Brunt shares a laugh with boxing World champion Carl Frampton
Chris Brunt shares a laugh with boxing World champion Carl Frampton

Chris Brunt insists Northern Ireland’s feet will remain firmly on the ground – even if they beat Finland on Sunday.

Victory over the Finns at Windsor Park would be another significant step towards next summer’s Euro finals for Michael O’Neill’s men.

Three wins from four opening qualifiers have Northern Ireland perched in second spot in Group F.

Fans are already dreaming of gracing a first ever European Championship, including boxing World champion Carl Frampton.

The Super-bantamweight star – who claimed the IBF title last September after beating Kiko Martinez in Belfast – was a special guest reporter at Friday’s player press conference at the team’s Culloden Hotel base.

The Tigers Bay 28-year-old’s verbal sparring will be screened on BBC’s Football Focus programme on Saturday.

‘The Jackal’ is also dreaming of next summer’s Euros, and is ready to book his tickets to France if Northern Ireland beat Finland on Sunday.

“Am I being too optimistic,” Frampton asked Brunt.

“Yeah, probably,” the West Brom star laughed.

“I’d love to say yes, but there are still five games to go after Sunday, so that’s a lot of football.

“Obviously, if we do beat Finland, it isolates them from the three teams at the top of the group, which gives us a good chance with the way the system is.

“But I wouldn’t be booking your tickets just yet.”

Northern Ireland have enjoyed a meteoric rise during the current Euro qualifying campaign.

It has been a steady climb that has come as a pleasant surprise to many fans.

Despite the radical improvement, Brunt insists there has been no magic pill to transform their fortunes.

“I don’t think a massive amount has changed since the last World Cup campaign. In a couple of games, we played okay but didn’t get results. That was the most disappointing thing,” Brunt added.

“We did well to come from behind in Hungary, but against Greece and the Faroes we kept clean sheets. Defending well has been a big thing for us.

“To get results we know we have to defend well. In the last campaign, we didn’t defend as well as we could. That left us chasing games which is always difficult to do.

“We have a good group of lads who defend well and play well on the counter attack. When we have been chasing games, it has always been difficult for us.

“This time we’ve defended better and looked more dangerous in front of goal.”