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Northern Ireland v Hungary: History beckons for O´Neill´s men

SoccerNews in European Championships 5 Sep 2015

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Michael O’Neill is backing his Northern Ireland players to rise to the occasion and make history when Hungary visit Windsor Park on Monday.

Friday’s 3-1 victory over 10-man Faroe Islands ensured Northern Ireland stand on the brink of qualify for the European Championship for the first time.

Defender Gareth McAuley headed home twice to secure a win which put O’Neill’s men a point above Romania at the top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group F with three games remaining. 

Another three points would seal Northern Ireland’s place in next year’s showpiece in France and end their long wait to feature in a first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

And O’Neill does not expect his side to pass up such an opportunity. 

Speaking after Friday’s win, the Northern Ireland manager said: “I think we’re guaranteed third anyway so that’s a good start. We know what’s at hand. The result in Budapest [a 2-1 win for Northern Ireland] is obviously in our favour as well.

“The players’ response all week has been superb. I’ve no doubt we’ll get a similar response on Monday night. Hopefully we get a similar result.

“We know the significance of three points. It’s a fantastic prize for the players, well deserved. They’ve won three of the four games away from home which is phenomenal in any campaign.

“It’s a great scenario to be playing for qualification in our home stadium. The pleasing aspect of it is we do have a little bit of a safety net there as well.”

He added: “We can go into that [Hungary] game and do everything possible to win that group. We’re top and I just think the players will respond. This [Faroe Islands] is the game that was going to be the nervous game.

“The next game, I think they’ll handle it. I look at the intensity of the team, right through the team, there wasn’t a player that didn’t perform [against the Faroes]. I just thought we were excellent. 

“We just have to continue that. The effects of the game tonight and the fatigue element of it, I don’t think they will be a factor given what’s at stake.”

Hungary were held to a goalless draw by Romania on Friday and Zoltan Gera is braced for a tough encounter against a Northern Ireland side brimming with confidence. 

But the Ferencvaros midfielder is determined to ensure there will be no party in Belfast on Monday. 

“Northern Ireland on Monday will be another difficult task. They will be physical and look to score from corners and free-kicks,” he said.

“They can qualify for Euro 2016 with a win so I expect a hard match, but with more great support from our fans I hope we will be successful there.”

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