Belfast Telegraph

Chris Brunt aims to conquer minnow frustration

By Steven Beacom

Chris Brunt is determined to turn around Northern Ireland's age old problem of struggling against the minnows, only to then punch above their weight against the big boys and challenge for a place at the Euro 2016 finals.

Manager Michael O'Neill and his players were all left frustrated by draws at home to both Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in the World Cup qualifying campaign, before things got worst when they lost to both away from Windsor Park.

The flip side of that was the magnificent win at home to Russia and the fully deserved draw in Portugal, which might have been bettered against Cristiano Ronaldo and co. in Belfast had Brunt not been sent off when the team was 2-1 ahead, before Kyle Lafferty followed him, as the Real Madrid superstar took advantage to fire home a second-half hat-trick.

The build-up to the Euro 2016 qualifiers, in which O'Neill's men will face Greece, Romania, Hungary, Finland and the Faroe Islands, starts in Cyprus tomorrow night.

And the match is a perfect opportunity for the team to start turning their fortunes around, with the Cypriots sitting 122nd in the Fifa World Rankings, 37 places lower than Northern Ireland.

"The games that let us down at home in the last campaign were obviously the draws against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan," said Brunt.

"To beat Russia at home and then the circumstances at home to Portugal, with myself and Kyle Lafferty getting sent-off, obviously don't help that result.

"For 65 minutes or so we had Portugal there for the taking, so if you look at the two big teams, we beat Russia at home and if circumstances had been different we could have got something from Portugal as well.

"If we can turn those performances out against the so-called smaller countries, we are going to have a good chance in the Euros.

"Teams are probably considering us as one of the smaller countries, which sometimes plays into our hands."

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