Defender Jonny Evans has urged Northern Ireland’s players to use their Euro 2016 victory over Ukraine as proof their World Cup dream can be salvaged.
Having lost 1-0 to Switzerland following a contentious penalty in the first leg of their play-off at Windsor Park, Michael O’Neill’s men arrived in Basel yesterday knowing no European team has ever recovered from a home loss in the opening encounter to reach the World Cup via that route.
The task is even more daunting given England are the only country to have won a competitive fixture in Switzerland since 2008.
However, Evans, whose brother Corry Evans conceded the spot-kick in Belfast, is not disillusioned, pointing to how O’Neill’s team rallied in France when they faced potentially being the first team to be eliminated at Euro 2016.
On that occasion, after losing their opening group game to Poland, the Northern Irish secured a 2-0 victory over Ukraine that eventually proved to be enough to send them through to the knock-out phases.
“We’re still in the tie, it’s important not to get carried away,” Jonny Evans warned.
“We still have the ability and character in the squad to turn it around.
“You look back at the Euros, we lost the opening game to Poland.
“We managed to come back and played unbelievable against Ukraine, so we will have to see.
“There’s still a lot of motivation in the squad and a big prize there for us.”
And Evans insists they have to realise there is still a chance to represent their country in Russia, 32 years after the last Northern Ireland man played at a World Cup.
“Most of us were just worried that we have the second game now and preparing for that,” Jonny Evans added.
“We talked about that in the changing room - getting ourselves ready because we are still very much in the tie.
“Although the anger and disappointment is still brewing, we have to make sure we pick ourselves up and give everything going into the second game.”