Teams will want to avoid NI – O’Neill

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‘Everybody gave everything’ – NI boss Michael O’Neill

Manager Michael O’Neill said Northern Ireland will be tough to beat in a World Cup play-off after their 2-0 qualifying win over the Czech Republic.

Monday’s win in Belfast – their fifth in a row – guaranteed a top-two spot in Group C and a likely play-off place.

“Probably teams would say they wouldn’t have minded playing Northern Ireland,” said O’Neill.

“But if they look at us over the campaign they’ll probably say no, we’d rather avoid Northern Ireland.”

Group leaders Germany, who are five points clear of Northern Ireland, need only a point from their final two games to seal top spot.

Northern Ireland have won five matches in a row and kept five clean sheets

West Brom’s Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt netted in the first half to boost Northern Ireland’s hopes of securing one of the eight play-off places.

They have taken 19 points from a possible 24 and kept seven clean sheets, more than any other European team.

The play-off places will be filled by the best eight runners-up in the nine qualifying groups, excluding their results against the bottom side.

Based on the current standings, Northern Ireland have the second highest points tally among runners-up, with 13.

“The fear is getting to the play-offs and not getting through it. The opposition will be what it will be,” O’Neill said.

“Hopefully the draw – if and when we’re in that position – will be somewhat kind to us. It’s very difficult – who would you want in that scenario?

“I look back at the qualification for Brazil (in 2014) and 13 was enough. Denmark missed out with 10.

“We’ll just have to wait and see, hopefully between now and game 10 there’s a load of other draws in every other group and 13 is more than enough.”

‘It only took me 60 caps to score a decent goal’ – Chris Brunt

Evans scored his first international goal in more than eight years at Windsor Park, flicking home a header in the 28th minute.

That was the highlight of an impressive display from the 29-year-old defender, who was wanted by Manchester City and Arsenal during the transfer window which ended last week.

“Jonny’s been brilliant this week,” said O’Neill.

“He’s had a lot on his plate but he deals with it so well and his performances in both of the games were fantastic.”


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