Michael O’Neill has urged his Northern Ireland side not to lose focus as they prepare to face Faroe Islands, knowing victory could put them on the verge of qualification for Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland have enjoyed an impressive qualification campaign – tasting defeat just once, while accumulating 13 points, to sit second in Group F.
Victories in the Faroe Islands on Friday and against Hungary on Monday could, if results elsewhere go their way, mean O’Neill’s men qualify for their first major tournament since 1986.
It would represent a first appearance at the European Championships, but O’Neill refused to get carried away when discussing the prospect this week.
O’Neill – who has Chris Brunt and forward Kyle Lafferty one booking away from suspension – told reporters: “Our focus has to be on ourselves.
“We have to make sure we win the game in the Faroes and then we’ll see what the scenario is on Monday.”
The Northern Ireland boss recalled Alan Mannus and Lee Hodson to his squad while the likes of Stuart Dallas and Oliver Norwood have also burst onto the international scene of late.
“The younger players have definitely freshened up the squad,” O’Neill added.
“There’s no doubt about that but the key experienced players that you need for this campaign have been of great service to Northern Ireland.
“It would be fantastic for them to get the opportunity to play in a major finals.
“But going forward as a national team we are going to have to see the emergence of some players [like Dallas and Norwood], but at the minute we have a good squad of players who mix very well together and seem to enjoy each other’s company.”
Goals from Gareth McAuley and Kyle Lafferty earned Northern Ireland a 2-0 win in October’s reverse fixture with Friday’s hosts going on to take six points from their next five qualifiers.
The suspended Atli Gregersen will be missing for Lars Olsen’s men as they seek to keep their slim hopes of progression alive – the Faroes trailing third-place Hungary by five points.
A 2-1 win over Greece last time out has lifted spirits within the nation’s football community – the Faroe Islands Football Association selling out Friday’s fixture at the Torsvollur stadium in Torshavn in just 16 hours.
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