Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland in the mood to finish the job and qualify for Euros insists Stuart Dallas

By Steven Beacom

Stuart Dallas believes that the determination and desire in the Northern Ireland squad can see the team through to the Euro 2016 finals in France.

The Leeds United ace has certainly shown plenty of both since playing his way into the side halfway through the campaign.

There was also a dynamism about his play in last month's 1-1 draw at home to Hungary.

In the first half in particular the ex-Crusaders hero was in superb form, getting the Northern Ireland fans off their seats with a series of thrilling forays into opposition territory.

Manager Michael O'Neill will be looking for more of the same from Dallas on Thursday night when Greece are the visitors to Windsor Park.

Victory for Northern Ireland would see the country qualify for next year's finals and complete an incredible Coagh to Champs-Élysées story for Dallas.

Reflecting on the Hungary Group F game when Kyle Lafferty scored an injury time leveller when O'Neill's side were down to 10 men after Chris Baird's red card, Dallas stated: "It was a bit dramatic leaving it so late.

"It wasn't too good for the heart, but it would have been an injustice if we hadn't got something out of the game.

"In the first-half we were the better team. Hungary maybe shaded it a little bit in the second-half, but it could turn out to be a vital point.

"We showed real grit to get a result out of the game when we were down to 10 men and that's the kind of character that could get us across the line. There is a determination in this squad of players and they have shown it throughout the campaign."

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Northern Ireland essentially have three shots at qualification. If they beat Greece they are home and dry. Or if all goes wrong on Thursday against Greece, another chance will come in Finland on Sunday.

And even if things go awry in Helsinki, third placed Hungary have to win their final two games to overtake Dallas and co. in the table.

"We would have settled for this scenario before the campaign," said Dallas.

"Two draws or one win does us. We know as a group of players what it will take to get us to France and that's what we're focused on.

"At the same time, Hungary know they need to get maximum points from their two remaining games, which is no easy task.

"Having said that, we can't worry about what Hungary do in their games. All we can do is look after ourselves and focus on Greece."

Dallas added that while not having the suspended Lafferty, Baird and Conor McLaughlin available on Thursday, he believes the squad has the strength in depth to cope.

"We have players suspended for the Greece game, but the confidence and belief is there that we can put in a big performance," he added.

"We have players in this squad who are more than capable of stepping up to the plate. Michael has shown great faith in his whole squad and that's what it's about in international football.

"It's not always about the starting XI, it's about the squad. The players who come in, you can be sure they'll be ready to do a good job."

Belfast Telegraph