Belfast Telegraph

Underestimate Northern Ireland and you'll get shock of your life: Oliver Norwood

By Steven Beacom

Oliver Norwood has warned his Euro 2016 opponents that they are in for the shock of their lives if they underestimate Northern Ireland.

Michael O'Neill's men will enter the finals in France as underdogs against Poland, Ukraine and Germany, but the Reading midfielder is bullish about his side's chances.

Always full of confidence, Norwood's self-belief had increased after the side's first training session just outside Lyon.

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"It's a very tough group. Poland, Ukraine and Germany are all top teams. We're coming into the unknown but we've got to aim to get out of the group, and we'll give everything to try and achieve that," said Norwood at yesterday's media briefing.

"We're not just here to take part and enjoy this. We're professional athletes just as much as the other teams.

"If people underestimate us then feel free to do that because they'll get the shock of their lives.

"We're 12 games unbeaten so we've proven that we can compete at international level. We'll be ready for Sunday against Poland in Nice.

"There's no pressure on keeping our unbeaten run. It gives us confidence and we won our qualifying group, which gives us confidence as well.

"Every team has come here to achieve things and we're no different."

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Norwood accepts the group games in France will be a step up from those in qualifying, but adds that Northern Ireland deserve great credit for getting to France.

"People might look at our qualifying group and think we were dealt a good hand but we still had to win the games and qualify," he said.

"The amount of players Greece had playing in the Champions League tells you they had good players, Romania were a very good team and Hungary had good players too.

"It's not our fault they didn't perform well enough. We did what we had to do, it was our job.

"Maybe we haven't played against that calibre of player in qualifying but we've been in big games before.

"We had Portugal in the last campaign with Cristiano Ronaldo so we know what it is like to face these big name stars.

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"We're expecting tough tests but we wouldn't want it any other way.

"We've earned the right to be in the tournament and we're really looking forward to taking part.

"We're excited to have arrived in France. We've been in camp three weeks now, in Manchester, Dublin, Austria and Slovakia - so to finally get here and get settled, it's exciting times and it's a tournament we're really looking forward to.

"Right now we are desperate to get out and play. There is a lot of stuff to do such as analysing the opposition and the manager will leave no stone unturned in that regard but come Sunday we will be ready, no doubt."

Belfast Telegraph