Steven Davis senses opportunity for Northern Irish lift-off
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis hopes his side can inject some momentum into their World Cup qualifying campaign against Luxembourg.
Tonight’s fixture appears the most winnable of their first three matches in Group F, coming either side of Friday’s 2-0 defeat in Russia and another tricky away day in Portugal next month. As such the pressure is on for victory at Windsor Park and Southampton midfielder Davis is optimistic.
“Tomorrow represents an opportunity to get three points and the boys are looking forward to it,” he said. “Hopefully we get a positive result and kickstart the campaign. International football is getting harder and harder, the gaps are closing, but it’s one we’re looking to get three points from. Home games will have a big say in how the campaign goes for us.
“We’re hoping we can have a lot of possession and then it’s what we can do with it to create chances. It’s up to us to dictate the tempo of the play.”
Manager Michael O’Neill has told Northern Ireland fans not to expect a walkover against Luxembourg.
The warning seems a strange one given the visitors are rated 23 places above O’Neill’s side in the Fifa rankings, but a mixture of home advantage and historical superiority means Northern Ireland go into their second World Cup qualifier as favourites.
O’Neill is aware his side will have to take on much more of the attacking responsibility than they did in Friday’s 2-0 defeat in Russia but is careful not to downplay the opposition.
Indeed, if there was any sense that Luxembourg would be a soft touch, they dispelled it in their Group F opener against Portugal – a match that saw them take a surprise lead before losing 2-1.
“When you look at the group we have you could say the perception is that this will be our easiest game, but you’d only need to have a conversation with the Portuguese and their manager to know it’s not going to be straightforward,” said O’Neill. “I wouldn’t say it’s as easy a game as you’ll get. If you look at Luxembourg, you’ll see in recent times their games have been very close.
“In their last few games they’ve been beaten 2-1 by Georgia, 1-0 by Switzerland, they beat Macedonia 2-1. That gives you an indication that this is not a team, with all due respect, that’s a San Marino or a Liechtenstein that is getting beaten 7-0 or 8-0 in qualifying games.”
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