Belfast Telegraph

'Why not Northern Ireland?': Josh Magennis determined to stay top ahead of Germany and the Netherlands

Josh Magennis is hoping Northern Ireland can defy the odds to seal automatic qualification for Euro 2020.
Josh Magennis is hoping Northern Ireland can defy the odds to seal automatic qualification for Euro 2020.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland aren't shy in upsetting an apple-cart or two but Josh Magennis is hoping that they can defy the odds in the most stunning fashion yet to reach Euro 2020.

Pitted against both Germany and the Netherlands in Group C of Euro 2020 qualifying, NI's chances of earning automatic passage to the finals was considered fanciful at best.

The Bolton forward is daring to question that notion. He has been part of the Northern Ireland squad that defied the seeding to top their Euro 2016 qualifying group and then beat the Czech Republic and Norway into second spot in their World Cup 2018 group.

It's so far so good this time round, with Northern Ireland boasting two wins from two and sitting three points clear of both their qualification rivals (Germany have played just one game).

But beating either Holland or Germany to seize one of two automatic spots on offer? Really?

"People say this to me all the time and I say 'why not us?'" he said, after netting an 87th minute winner to down Belarus 2-1 at Windsor Park. "We did manage to do it for (Euro 2016). We seem to have this underdog mentality, which is fine we can play to that no problem because if you come and underestimate us, especially at home, we can punish you.

"I just have the ethos of 'why not? Why can't we do it? Why can't it be Northern Ireland?' We've got the foundation, the team and the manager who can take us forward."

The win over Belarus added to Thursday's 2-0 success over Estonia. Both games showcased Northern Ireland's new style of play. Not traditionally known for a brand of 'sexy football', it's quick pressing and fast passing that characterise Michael O'Neill's new NI.

"We've got a style of play," Magennis said. "We're not just a one dimensional team. We're trying to play out from the back and break teams down and on the flipside of that, teams aren't coming to Windsor any more thinking we're an easy touch.

"Teams are showing us respect and dropping off. They're giving us the challenge to break them down and earn the right to beat them. With the squad that we've got and the style of play we have, we're managing to do that.

"We've been working hard during the week and (are seeing) things we've worked on come to fruition, like passages of play and stuff that the naked eye wouldn't be able to see. That's a big step forward for us, not just the points but the performances.

"We know what we're working on behind the scenes and it's really coming to effect. It's been a really pleasing trip."

Magennis' late goal was his fifth international strike and, in his typically modest fashion, he redirected any praise towards his team-mates and coaches.

"The confidence that you get when you come here - the demands like Michael puts on you," he pointed to. "He really challenges the team and you as an individual. It's also when you're playing with brilliant players who know you inside out. They can, like Paddy (McNair) did tonight, put it on a plate for you.

"For me it's the pinnacle, playing for your country, with great players who make you look better than you are sometimes. I'll give them the credit.

"It's a blessing that I could get the goal to win the game but there's a lot of stuff that builds up during the game, it's not just the last five minutes. The most important thing is the six points this week and now we look forward to the games in June.

"I'm fully enjoying my football at the minute and long may it continue."

Next up for Northern Ireland is an away double-header against Estonia (June 8) and Belarus (June 11). Two more wins and the GAWA will be daring to dream all over again.

Why not?

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