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Evans wants strong finish

Jonny Evans has called for a strong finish to Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign with a view to greater things in the future.

After Tuesday night's Group F match in Luxembourg, just one more double-header remains on the road to Rio and, although Northern Ireland will not be there, Evans is full of enthusiasm for the challenges ahead.

Euro 2016 will see an increase from 16 to 24 teams and Manchester United defender Evans believes that represents a chance for Michael O'Neill's improving side.

They may have won just one of O'Neill's seven competitive matches, taking the notable scalp of Russia, but two impressive showings against a star-studded Portugal probably deserved more than the one point they yielded.

Now Evans wants to take as much as possible from their remaining fixtures - away at Luxembourg, Azerbaijan and Israel - to tee up their next European campaign.

"We're in a good place as a squad. It feels like we have things worked out a bit and if we can continue in that fashion there is that wee bit of hope," said Evans.

"The extra teams are qualifying in the next campaign and that gives us a big incentive. But we need to go back to this campaign first, finish as strong as we can and put points on the board. "That might have an effect on the seedings and the draw for the next qualifying campaign.

"There is a good spirit among the squad. You hear people saying 'we enjoy it' but we actually are enjoying it. It's a good atmosphere."

Success at the Stade Josy Barthel, a ground named after Luxembourg's only Olympic gold medallist, would be the ideal way to keep the feelgood factor going after Northern Ireland threw away a winning position against Portugal on Friday on the way to a 4-2 defeat.

Evans accepts his side have not always been at their best when playing lesser opponents in recent years, a fact borne out by a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture, but is hopeful that will change.

"It won't be bigger in terms of publicity than Portugal - beating them at home would have people talking about great nights at Windsor Park - but these are the games we haven't done as well in, against teams at the same level as us or below," he said.

"The onus is on ourselves, you get a lot more time on the ball in these games.

"There is that pressure if we don't produce or if we don't score early, but if we stick to what we did well against Portugal, no matter what the opponent, I think we'll be fine."

Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty are both absent having been sent off against Portugal, with Rangers forward Dean Shiels called up as cover.

Shiels' only international goal came in the home clash against Luxembourg, but he is unlikely to dislodge Jamie Ward or Martin Paterson if both remain fit.

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