Published: Tue, March 28, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

Quick goal sets Northern Ireland on way to win over Norway

Quick goal sets Northern Ireland on way to win over Norway

Here, we look at the talking points ahead of the encounter with the Norwegians at Windsor Park.

Michael O'Neill's men play Norway at Windsor Park on Sunday (7.45pm) and Lafferty could win his 14th cap since making his debut against the Netherlands in June 2012.

"We believe we can reach the World Cup".

The win gives the Irish the chance to tighten their grip on second place in qualifying Group C when they take on Azerbaijan in their next competitive fixture.

"I'm sure the experience they had in the summer, at the Euros, they would love to experience again at the biggest tournament of all". Reading the pundits before it, I think we were one of the favourites to finish bottom of our group, but we showed we are a hard outfit and tough to beat. Chris Brunt was perhaps the odd man out as he was stationed in central midfield rather than at left-back, but his adaptability means O'Neill knows he can slot him into a variety of positions.

"But the group we have, we know how good we are and we know what we want to achieve and past year gave us a taste of that".

"I thought we competed fantastically and we played some very good football as well. The tactical side of it will not necessarily be the determining factor in the game".

Predicting O'Neill's Northern Ireland XI - once a straightforward task - now involves a degree of guesswork. Both Corry Evans (groin) and Aaron Hughes (calf) have been ruled out and Josh Magennis, who was absent from training too, is rated "extremely doubtful" because of a hamstring problem.

Then there is the ongoing issue over Kyle Lafferty's fitness. Northern Ireland's talisman has three goals already in this qualification campaign, which is more than the number of starts he has accrued for Norwich.

Despite that, his worldwide boss has no doubt Lafferty can answer his country's call again.

Prior to the game, O'Neill said he saw the double-figure points landmark as key to fostering belief that they could claim a playoff berth to reach the finals in 2018, and this win maintained their two-point cushion over the Czech Republic, while extending advantages over Azerbaijan and Norway to three and seven points, respectively.

"His overall fitness is very good, in terms of match fitness that's a different thing".

It all started with a goalless draw away in the Czech Republic, and at home, "the northern iron" with the same score 4: 0 defeated Azerbaijan and San Marino.

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