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We're keeping Euros magic alive, says Davis

 

By Graham Luney

Steven Davis senses that something special is happening with this Northern Ireland side again.

Not content with basking in the glory of their Euro 2016 adventure which culminated in a defeat to Wales in the last 16 in France, Michael O'Neill's side are now daring to dream again with a place at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia within reach.

Sitting second behind Germany in Group C, Northern Ireland are firmly in the hunt for a play-off spot but it's still going to take an heroic effort to finish the job.

Skipper Davis, however, says the belief and momentum that drove their Euro 2016 assault is still alive and kicking.

"It was really important to try and continue on from where we left off after the Euros," said Davis, who will win his 94th cap tonight.

"We knew it was going to be difficult but we have managed to start well and are in a good position.

"The next few games will be vital in terms of where we will finish.

"While recognising the importance of the Azerbaijan game, we won't be underestimating them. We will know it will be a difficult game but hopefully we can show the same desire we displayed in the 4-0 victory against them at Windsor and produce a good performance."

Southampton ace Davis feels tonight's friendly against New Zealand gives O'Neill an opportunity to assess any strengths or weaknesses of players while sharpening fitness levels.

"We don't know a huge amount about the individuals but Chris Wood is the name that stands out after a great season in the Championship," he said. "He's going to be a threat but we have watched some footage of them and they haven't conceded too many goals.

"It's going to be another difficult task and a good game for us. They are preparing for the Confederations Cup so they will be looking for a positive result but from our perspective the game gives Michael an opportunity to look at different players who will be desperate to impress him.

"We don't get too many opportunities to come to Belfast and play and we want to put in a good performance for them and bring that momentum into Azerbaijan. It's important we get going again after the break.

"The game out there will be a different proposition but we believe we have the quality to go out there and win the game."

• Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has signed a new one-year deal with the club having won over manager Pep Guardiola this season.

And Stoke City have signed midfielder Darren Fletcher on a free transfer from West Brom on a two-year deal.

The 33-year-old Scotland captain made 97 appearances for the Baggies after joining from Manchester United in 2015.

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