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Euro 2016: Two wins and we’ll go to France, Chris Baird

By Stuart McKinley

Published 12/06/2015

So close: Chris Baird excited for European qualification
So close: Chris Baird excited for European qualification

Chris Baird has moved away from the old footballing cliché of taking one game at a time by targeting two more wins to seal qualification for the 2016 European Championship finals.

The 33-year-old, who was released by West Bromwich Albion at the end of the Premier League season, believes that would be enough to take Northern Ireland to France next summer.

As far as the hard maths are concerned, as things stand it will take a little more than a win over Romania at Windsor Park tomorrow night and victory in the Faroe Island in September - the home clash with Hungary a few days later could be the one where Michael O'Neill's men are be playing for qualification.

Still, Northern Ireland have never been in a such a healthy position at the halfway stage of a qualifying campaign, with three of the remaining five games at home - and one of the away games, that one in the Faroes, eminently winnable.

And that's why Baird is smiling as he thinks of what the future might hold for him and his international team mates.

"This is a massive game, of course. If we win we are pretty much nearly there. If we lose we're still in a great position," said the Rasharkin man.

"If we can get the right result then you start looking to the next game and we know we can get a result in the Faroes.

"Two wins out of the next two games and we're pretty much qualified.

"Looking at other fixtures, I know we don't rely on them, but they are going for us.

"We know we are so close and we're fully focused."

Baird still has memories of previous campaigns, with Northern Ireland taking qualification for Euro 2008 right down the final game away to Spain.

As he says, the more experienced members of the squad have 'been there, done it and failed many times', but he believes that things have changed - not least because finishing third in the group now brings the reward of a play-off.

"It's different. Going back to one of the previous Euro campaigns, with Spain, Sweden and Denmark, it was obviously a tough group," he said.

"We did very well, but going to Spain looking to win there was very difficult.

"We've started so well this time. It feels different because we have the momentum, the confidence and everything about the plays at the minute. We're geared up, we know what we have to do and we want to put the performance in and get those three points.

"It's good that third place now gets you a play-off. Obviously the first and second positions are what we want and now that we are in this position we can see the finish line and what is in front of us and we want to get there sooner rather than later.

"A good result on Saturday puts us in a phenomenal position, with the next two fixtures, away to the Faroe Islands and at home to Hungary, again it's working out for us."

Although the Kop Stand at Windsor Park has now been pulled down, apart from the small front section, there will still be more than 10,000 fans inside the stadium and after training there yesterday Baird can't wait to see the redevelopment work completed.

"It's a bit strange with the Kop Stand not there, but I thought it was going to look worse than it does," said Baird.

"It's going to look fantastic when it's finished."

Belfast Telegraph

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