After a rollercoaster ride to the last-16 at the summer’s European Championships in France, Northern Ireland want another taste of Finals action, starting with the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
It will be a tall order to get there, with only the group winners automatically going through – and one group runner-up not even making a play-off spot, but Norn Iron will give it everything they’ve got.
Michael O’Neill’s side were rightly delighted with their 0-0 draw away in the Czech Republic, as it’s against them and Norway where success and failure will lie.
With San Marino, Azerbaijan and Germany in Group C, the Green and White Army know that six points against the former two are a must, while anything against the latter is a bonus.
And with their next three games reading San Marino (H), Germany (A) and Azerbaijan (H), O’Neill knows what must be done.
Northern Ireland have met San Marino only twice before, succeeding 3-0 and 4-0 in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and with the greatest of respect, a similar scoreline should be on the cards again.
Having played just 28 minutes of Championship football for Norwich City this season, Kyle Lafferty will be chomping at the bit to get some game time.
The big striker will be even more pleased to take some chances, and Lafferty is 9/4 favourite to score first.
Group Winner odds of 28/1 highlight the task at hand for the Green and White Army, but nights should like should help them keep in contention.
The Green and White Army rode the crest of a wave in France, and Michael O’Neill’s should have no problems avoiding a San Marino banana skin.
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