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Lafferty: No fear for Northern Ireland in last 16

Kyle Lafferty believes no team will relish facing Northern Ireland after Michael O’Neill’s team secured an extension to their Euro 2016 adventure.

A combination of stout defending and heroics from inspired goalkeeper Michael McGovern limited Germany to a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in Paris on Tuesday.

Turkey’s subsequent 2-0 win over Czech Republic ensured Northern Ireland’s haul of three points and a neutral goal difference in Group C would be enough to establish them as of the four best third-place teams in the round-robin phase.

The various permutations to be played out in Wednesday’s concluding group matches mean Northern Ireland are likely to face hosts France in Lyon, with an outside chance of them returning to the Parc des Princes to take on Wales.

Lafferty, their top scorer during qualification who came off the bench versus the world champions, is buoyed by his team’s form following a lacklustre 1-0 loss to Poland in the opening match and is confident they can push any opponent.

“In the first game we were disappointed with the result, it wasn’t a Northern Ireland performance,” he said.

“We’ve probably got one of the best defences in the tournament. We’ve come up against world class players and kept them relatively quiet. 

“We’ve only conceded two goals in three games which isn’t bad considering the players we’ve been up against.

“No matter who we come up against we’ll fancy our chances. It’s a one-off game and I’m sure we’ll go into it thinking we can get a victory.”

Having been dropped following Northern Ireland’s tournament opener, Lafferty is keen to prove to manager O’Neill that he can rediscover the form that helped to fire them to France.

“When I was given a chance to come on I just wanted to do enough to put a doubt in Michael O’Neill’s head,” he explained.

“I wanted to show I’m still hungry, I still want to play and I’ve still got a goal in me. I didn’t get a chance [to score] but that had a lot to do with the team we were up against.

“Whoever we get in the next stage we’ll need our strongest 11 on the pitch and hopefully I’ll be in it.”

From his vantage point on the bench during the first half, the Norwich City striker marvelled at Germany’s array of attacking talent and felt one Premier League player stood out.

“I think [Mesut] Ozil was very impressive,” he added. “He made 68 passes and 98.5 accuracy – you don’t play for teams like Real Madrid and Arsenal and become a World Cup winner if you’re not a big player.

“Entering the field against players like that is an achievement for me.”

Wed 22 Jun, 2016
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