Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Romania were there for the taking: Chris Brunt

By Stuart McKinley

Chris Brunt has claimed that anything other than automatic qualification for the Euro 2016 finals will be a let down for Northern Ireland.

The West Bromwich Albion man reflected on Saturday night's 0-0 draw with Romania at Windsor Park with mixed emotions.

On one hand it was a missed opportunity, with top spot in Group F up for grabs, but with four games to go Michael O'Neill's men have their fate in their own hands.

Maximum points from the September double header, which sees Northern Ireland travel to the Faroe Islands followed by a home match with Hungary, would clinch qualification - if the Hungarians fail to beat Romania before come to Belfast.

Any other scenario could take things down to the last game in Finland in October and Brunt is determined that come November Northern Ireland will be playing warm-up games in preparation for the Euro 2016 finals rather than battling it out in a winner-takes-all play-off to get there.

"It is an extra point gained. It is a bit disappointing that we didn't win the game, but it's not at the same time. It was important not to lose," said Brunt, who won his 50th cap at the weekend.

"In the second half, especially when we had a lot of set pieces around their box, they were there for the taking, we just couldn't get the ball over the line unfortunately.

"The other result (Hungary beating Finland) didn't go for either us or Romania really, so the two games in September become really important.

"We will be looking for Romania to beat Hungary and for us to beat Hungary as well, so it makes it a three-horse race now.

"We've come this far so we are looking for automatic qualification, but the worst case scenario is that we more or less have a play-off place.

"That would be a big disappointment though given the way we started the group."

The Faroe Islands' 2-1 win over Greece has all but ended Greek hopes of making it to France, 12 years after they were crowned kings of Europe.

While the Faroes aren't a realistic threat they are on a bit of a high after defeating Greece home and away and that will put Brunt and co. on their guard ahead of facing them on Friday September 4, particularly as Northern Ireland needed a late Kyle Lafferty equaliser to prevent an embarrassing defeat on their last visit there five years ago.

Brunt insists things have changed since then.

"We are a different side than the one that went to the Faroes the last time," said Brunt.

"It will be a tough game and they got another decent result against Greece.

"We are going to have to be wary going there.

"They've turned a few heads in this group and we know from our last experience there it isn't one that we want to remember too quickly and it's something we have to go and put right.

"We have to go with a game-plan, we can't just expect to win the game, because they are no mugs."

Belfast Telegraph