Belfast Telegraph

We're a relieved dressing room, says Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill as World Cup play-off place secure

By Paul Ferguson in Oslo

Michael O'Neill admitted there was a 'sense of relief' in the Northern Ireland dressing room in Oslo after his men were confirmed in next month's play-offs for the 2018 World Cup finals.

With Scotland only drawing 2-2 inSlovenia in the 5.00pm kick-off, the Northern Ireland players found out they'd qualified just as they were about to take to the Ullevaal Stadion pitch for their warm-ups ahead of their 7.45pm kick-off against Norway.

Northern Ireland will find out who they play in the play-offs after the draw on Tuesday, October 17.

Boss O'Neill said: “It was nice to know coming into the last game, the result,  whilst it's unfortunate for Scotland it's a boost for us, and we know now we're going to be in those eight positions.

“We still have a lot to play for, we have to make sure we try and win the game, try and finish as strongly as possible, keep the momentum going into the play-offs and obviously there's the ranking situation with seeds to play for as well. Clearly there's a sense of relief in the dressing room, they can look forward to the game and hopefully we can get the right result."

O'Neill was forced to give his team in before the Scotland game was over in Ljubljana and therefore selected all six players – Steven Davis, Corry and Jonny Evans, Ollie Norwood, Stuart Dallas and Josh Magennis - who are currently on a yellow card and in danger of missing the first leg of the play-offs should they be cautioned tonight.

O'Neill made two changes from the side that lost to Germany last Thursday night – Conor Washington replacing Kyle Lafferty while Lee Hodson dropped to the bench with Stuart Dallas returning to the starting XI to win his 26th cap.

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