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Linfield cannot afford to dwell on Norway horror show as FC Zurich will pose stern test in Europa League qualifying

Champions League


Linfield found Amahl Pellegrino and his team-mates too hot to handle in Norway

Linfield found Amahl Pellegrino and his team-mates too hot to handle in Norway

Former Linfield ace Callum Marshall is thriving at West Ham

Former Linfield ace Callum Marshall is thriving at West Ham

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Linfield found Amahl Pellegrino and his team-mates too hot to handle in Norway

Linfield have returned to Belfast and are licking their European wounds but there is no point in feeling sorry for themselves.

When you progress in Europe, the challenges can get tougher — no one said this was going to be easy.

Sometimes there’s a gulf in class and Bodo/Glimt were an unstoppable force.

Even with a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Belfast, the Blues needed to bring their ‘A’ game to have any fighting chance but it all went horribly wrong with an 8-0 demolition in Norway.

David Healy’s side must nurse wounded pride and come out fighting against FC Zurich of Switzerland in the Europa League third qualifying round.

The first clash will be at Windsor Park on Thursday, with the return leg in Switzerland on Thursday, August 11.

And the European dream is still alive for the Danske Bank Premiership champions.

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Win their next tie and Healy’s men will be in a play-off for the Europa League groups and guaranteed group stage football in the Europa Conference League.

Lose it and they have a shoot-out in the Europa Conference League to make the group phase.

The prize is still in front of them so this is no time to show a lack of courage or belief.

Anything that’s worth having usually has to be earned and Zurich will also be formidable foes.

Any side that takes Azerbaijani club Qarabag to extra-time over two legs commands respect.

Zurich drew 2-2 at home to Qarabag after extra-time on Wednesday night, with the Azerbaijani champions qualifying for the next round on a 5-4 aggregate scoreline.

Their home games are played at the Letzigrund which reaches a capacity of 26,000 fans for League games. They won the Super League for the first time in 13 years last season and it was their 13th Championship, as Basel finished runner-up.

Despite this success, coach André Breitenreiter left the club to take charge of German side Hoffenheim. Last month, former Austrian national coach Franco Foda stepped into the hotseat.

The 56-year-old German is an experienced coach, tasting success with Sturm Graz as he steered them to the 2010–11 Bundesliga and the 2009–10 Austrian Cup.

The former FC Kaiserslautern manager became Austria boss in 2017 but resigned in March this year, following their failure to qualify for the World Cup after the defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

Players to look out for include young Italy striker Wilfried Gnonto. Earlier this year, he scored his first international goal in a 5–2 away loss to Germany to become the youngest goalscorer for Italy, aged 18 years and 222 days, breaking the previous record held by Bruno Nicolè since 1958.

Guinean Cheick Condé, who received his first call-up for the national side this year, is an industrious 22-year-old midfielder.

As the Blues prepare to press ahead in Europe, their former striker Callum Marshall is being tipped to have a bright future at West Ham.

The frontman scored his first hat-trick in West Ham colours when the Under-19 side beat Crystal Palace 4-3 in the Next Generation Cup at Tottenham Hotspur Academy on Wednesday. Ahead of tomorrow’s Final against Spurs, young Hammers assistant coach Gerard Prenderville praised the 17-year-old following his second-half treble.

“He signed for the club in January and had a fantastic end to the season,” Prenderville said. “I thought it would be good for him to get a pre-season under his belt at the club and now he has done, we’re already seeing him get even better.

“He’s been great for us in pre-season, he scored a lot of goals for us in the Czech Republic, and he got his hat-trick. Marshall, he is a great lad, he works hard and he’s now reaping the rewards.”

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