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We know it can be done: Steven Davis not ruling out Northern Ireland qualification for Euro 2020

By Steven Beacom

Steven Davis is relishing the prospect of taking on his old Southampton manager Ronald Koeman when Northern Ireland face Netherlands in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Northern Ireland have tough contests against Holland and Germany in Group C and must win encounters versus Estonia and Belarus next year after yesterday's draw in Dublin with Davis stating that a strong start will be required if Michael O'Neill's side have a chance of making it to the finals.

Koeman was the club boss for Davis at Southampton when the Northern Ireland skipper inspired his country to the Euro 2016 finals. Back then he was the first name on the Saints team-sheet. These days the midfielder struggles for game time at Southampton, although he'll be hoping that could change after the club announced Mark Hughes' departure on Monday morning.

At the draw the Dutch boss, who has rejuvenated Holland after a lean period, said he was looking forward to seeing Davis again. The feeling is mutual.

"I got on well with Ronald. He's a good manager and has a bit of presence about him. I think he probably needed that going into the Holland job," said Davis.

"He's had a hell of a career as a player and he's well respected for that and he's done really well as a manager too.

"He's managed a number of top clubs in Holland and has started really well with the national side winning their Nations League group. He's got them playing with confidence and he's got some incredible players, like Virgil Van Dijk who is maybe the best centre-half in the world, so they will be tough games and a real test.

"It's a difficult draw for us. We've seen Germany at close quarters and even though they've been going through a little period when they haven't been getting results they still have that undoubted quality within their team and they'll come again, there's no doubt about that.

"We had tough games against them in recent years but we always managed to keep ourselves in the games over the course of the 90 minutes so there are positives to take from that, though we are obviously going to have to impose ourselves on them more.

"Any game of football is winnable but we are going to have to be at our best against Germany and the Dutch and hope they have an off night to get results.

"Estonia and Belarus are two teams who will be very difficult to play against when away from home, but ultimately, if we are going to do anything in the group, then we are going to have to take maximum points from the games against those two.

"If you can get off to a good start it gives you belief, as we know from the last Euros. We'll aim to get ourselves in the mix early on. That'll be important to build momentum early on.

"We've got to try to believe but we also have to be realistic about how difficult it's going to be.

"Playing in a five-team league can help, and not having double headers every time worked in our favour when we qualified for Euro 2016 so we know it can be done.

"One thing is certain I know that we will be raring to go as soon as the games come around in March."

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