Belfast Telegraph

Under-estimate us and we'll beat you, Magennis warns Bosnia

On the up: Josh Magennis climbs high against Germany’s
Emre Can on Tuesday night
On the up: Josh Magennis climbs high against Germany’s Emre Can on Tuesday night
Edin Dzeko

By Paul Ferguson

Passionate hitman Josh Magennis has warned Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off rivals that the men in green have perfected a winning formula for sides outside the world's elite.

Michael O'Neill's side are just two games away from reaching their second consecutive Euro finals but face a tricky March 26 play-off semi-final assignment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by a possible decider against either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland five days later.

Magennis insists that, during Group C qualifiers over the last 10 months, Northern Ireland have proved that they remain a serious player on the international stage and have actually improved - despite a number of retirements and injury set-backs.

Northern Ireland, who are listed 14 places higher than Bosnia in the world rankings, quickly accumulated a maximum of 12 points from their opening four games against Estonia and Belarus, followed by highly commendable performances against the Netherlands in Rotterdam and Belfast, along with a serious examination of the Germans at Windsor Park.

Magennis and co also travelled to Prague last month to produce their most dominant first-half display of the year and came away with an impressive 3-2 friendly win over the Czech Republic, a team who had just overcome England in a Euro qualifying clash.

Northern Ireland were thrashed 6-1 by Germany in their final qualifying game in Frankfurt on Tuesday night but, as the visitors were missing four key players, including Jonny Evans and Stuart Dallas - allied with the fact the game was meaningless with automatic qualification from the group already decided - Magennis believes that match has no bearing on their standing in the game.

Instead, the Bangor lad argues that Northern Ireland's performances during the last two years mean they deserve to be dining at the top of table of European football and will be making sure they do all they can to secure a reservation for next June.

"I don't think people can deny we deserve to be talked about as a nation who can qualify," states Magennis.

"There has sometimes been a stigma about a nation like Northern Ireland, but if anyone takes us for granted, we will beat you, especially teams who aren't at that real elite level like Germany and Holland.

"We've played the likes of Belarus and Estonia and won home and away. They might not be the prettiest of performances, but we have found a way to win.

"We will go to the wire and give it everything we've got because the joy and elation of going to a major tournament is something that can't be matched."

Northern Ireland lost twice to Bosnia in the Nations League last year, however they enjoyed 68% of the possession, had 26 shots at goal, registered eight on target and earned 18 corner kicks during the tie at Windsor Park.

In Sarajevo, they struck the post three times as the clinical finishing of former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko made the difference.

It was a competition that promised so much for Northern Ireland and their new high press style, yet delivered so little, with two defeats to Austria thrown into the mix.

In Juventus star Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia have an outstanding midfielder, but they struggled in Euro qualifying, losing to Italy, Greece, Finland and Armenia - although they were only defeated once at home.

Magennis says: "They aren't at the same level as Holland and Germany and we know all about them after the Nations League games.

"Bosnia will feel they can beat us, and vice-versa, and it'll be the team that shows up on the day.

"For us, playing in these big international games and the pressure that comes with it, we look forward to what is now a shootout in March.

"We've got more than enough quality to qualify. Hopefully Jonny (Evans), Jamal (Lewis) and Stuart (Dallas) will be back and it's just up to us to play well at club level between now and then and hopefully not pick up any injuries.

"We need everyone fighting for their places and we know we have two good performances left in us for March."

While Tuesday's result may have been one to forget, Magennis and Craig Cathcart joined an elite group of Northern Ireland internationals who have won half a century of caps for their country. There are only 40 players to have achieved such a feat.

Hull City forward Magennis, who made his debut nine years ago under Nigel Worthington in a friendly against Turkey, dedicated reaching 50 caps to all his coaches, friends, team-mates and family who have helped him on an incredible journey from schoolboy goalkeeper to international striker.

The former Bangor High pupil has gone on to score seven international goals, including netting against both Germany and the Netherlands within the last two years.

He admits: "If someone had said I'd get one cap, with the journey no one knows about coming into professional football would have been brilliant.

"It's nice for me personally but there have been so many people who have helped me along the way, from grassroots to Cardiff and everything since.

"I could never have been able to get here without those people looking out for me at club level.

"My family have been with me every step of the way and they've made it possible. It was every bit as much for them as it was for me."

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