Belfast Telegraph

San Marino skipper: NI are second best team in Group C

O'Neill's men backed to seal spot in World Cup play-offs

By Julian Taylor

Proud San Marino captain Alessandro Della Valle says his men are prepared to cause an almighty shock against Northern Ireland on Friday night - but only if they are able to overcome what he believes is the second best team in World Cup qualifying Group C.

The 35-year-old midfielder, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, admitted he is desperate to see his country win their first ever World Cup qualifier in Serraville and has revealed the sacrifices the part-time players go through to perform on the international stage.

However, Della Valle believes Michael O'Neill's men are quality opposition and has tipped the men in green, who defeated San Marino 4-0 last November at Windsor Park, to be one of the sides fighting it out in the November play-offs for a place at the finals in Russia next year.

"For us to finally win a game it means we realise our dream," Della Valle said. "We are working really hard to reach this target. We aren't merely waiting for it to happen, we are training to get it.

"Scoring one goal is great, but we want to increase possession and then, when the opportunity turns up, take advantage."

He added: "Northern Ireland have too many good players to choose between.

"Kyle Lafferty - who played in Italy (with Palermo) some years ago - is one of the most dangerous and he scored twice at Windsor Park, but I also like Steven Davis and Stuart Dallas.

"In my opinion, Northern Ireland will close this stage as runner-up behind Germany, a real soccer superpower."

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