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We must win to stand a chance of qualification, says Prosinecki

 

By Steven Beacom

Azerbaijan manager Robert Prosinecki has declared Saturday's Group C qualifier against Northern Ireland as 'decisive' in his side's bid to reach next year's World Cup finals.

Prosinecki and his players are still hurting following a 4-0 defeat at Windsor Park in November which stopped them in their tracks after they have taken seven points from their opening three games.

They were challenging Germany at the top of the table prior to that drubbing and are now in fourth position battling to get back in contention.

Three points behind second placed Northern Ireland, Prosinecki is well aware that Azerbaijan must beat Michael O'Neill's men at the weekend if their World Cup dream has any chance of coming true.

Revered as a midfield sensation as a player and so revered that both Real Madrid and Barcelona signed him in the 90s, the ex-Red Star Belgrade hero feels taking Azerbaijan to Russia in 2018 would be one of his finest football achievements.

While Northern Ireland are in a Turkish training camp this week ahead of the important qualifier, Azerbaijan have been building up in Austria attempting to perfect tactics against a side that outclassed and overpowered them in Belfast.

"We are fully focused on the Northern Ireland game," said the 48-year-old ex-Yugoslavian and Croatian international.

"We believe this match will be decisive in terms of our chances for qualification to the next phase. That's why we are preparing so seriously.

"The Austrian camp will help us get ready for Northern Ireland.

"It is such an important game for us."

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