Tonight's game against Bosnia and Herzegovina is the reason why Ian Baraclough was appointed Northern Ireland manager and given the nod ahead of Stephen Robinson and Tommy Wright.
he Irish FA hierarchy feel Baraclough at the helm - having worked closely with Michael O'Neill for the last couple of years and been given the responsibility of leading the preparations for this match, which of course was supposed to take place in March before Covid-19 intervened - gives Northern Ireland the best chance of victory tonight.
He's had two dress rehearsals in the Nations League last month, but this evening's match in Sarajevo is all that matters.
Victory and Baraclough's appointment looks to be inspired, defeat and questions will be asked. The pressure is now on.
Even though Baraclough, due to the short window of international week, has only had two days with the players on the training pitch in Northern Ireland before a light session at the stadium this morning, he's been preparing for this game since January, so the players should be well drilled and informed.
Belief is key, that's what Michael instilled into us before every game and what Baraclough needs to replicate. He must make sure every player is super confident before leaving the dressing room tonight.
Therefore, my message to my former team-mates would be trust yourselves, you've been in pressurised and high-profile games before and know what you are doing.
The prize is great, a showdown in Belfast next month for the right to go to the finals. It would be an incredible experience, but the players can't be thinking about that or indeed feel nervous. It's wasted energy.
Just focus on your role and responsibilities. When I was playing, all that was going through my head on game day was details of my opposing strikers; their strengths, what they liked to do differently and how I could counteract that.
Bosnia are good, but they are not a great side. The obvious threats come from talisman striker Edin Dzeko and their midfield magician Miralem Pjanic but I would also be wary of Torino's new loan signing Amer Gojak, who has the ability to score goals from midfield, while Edin Visca can be a nuisance for any defence.
Bosnia are extremely dangerous going forward but I believe they are at their weakest in defence, and Northern Ireland must exploit this.
Only Arsenal's Sead Kalasinac and veteran Ervin Zukanovic have genuine international experience.
Three quarters of Baraclough's team picks itself, with Jonny Evans and Jamal Lewis hopefully returning after missing out against Norway in the Nations League last month. I would play Stuart Dallas at right-back, although he could be pushed forward.
Right and left wing, along with up front, are where Baraclough has big decisions to make.
I know Corry Evans has been injured recently and only returned to training with his club Blackburn Rovers last Thursday, but he is such an important player for Northern Ireland that I would start him and get as much out of him as possible.
After his recent performances for Rangers, winger Jordan Jones comes into contention, and in attack I think he'll only play one striker and I wouldn't be surprised if he opts for big Kyle Lafferty. I know Laffs hasn't scored an international goal in four years and has only played a couple of games for new club Reggina, but in a big game like this he can rise to the occasion. If Baraclough can build him up, Laffs can deliver.
Bosnia in recent years have really struggled, even sacking their manager in the process, while Northern Ireland pushed Germany and the Netherlands for automatic qualification for the Euros.
Baraclough's boys, if they play to their strengths, can keep them in a slump.
I'm quietly confident, but it will be close, a goal either way - 1-0 to Northern Ireland will gladly do and the Irish FA's decision on Baraclough can be vindicated.
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