Belfast Telegraph

Defender Chris Brunt can fire up World Cup dream for NI, says Michael O'Neill

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill believes Chris Brunt's return to the Northern Ireland squad can edge his side closer to realising their World Cup finals dream. Northern Ireland take on Azerbaijan in a crucial Group C qualifying showdown on November 11 at Windsor Park and Brunt's name was included in the squad list for the first time since a serious knee injury ruled him out of the Euro 2016 finals.

O'Neill senses that the West Brom ace's Euro heartbreak will fuel his desire to help blast the team to the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.

"I think he's ready and he's itching to play," said O'Neill, whose side also host Croatia in a friendly on November 15.

"Having missed out in the summer, he is keen to get back and play. He also recognises the importance of this game as well.

"Chris has basically been a Premier League player for his whole career and the big thing for him was he didn't want to end his Northern Ireland career by being remembered because he missed out on the Euros.

"The big positive for us is he is back and he wants to play."

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