Belfast Telegraph

Defeating Azerbaijan is a must for us: Norwood

By Steven Beacom

Oliver Norwood has declared that Northern Ireland must beat Azerbaijan at Windsor Park next month to stay on track for World Cup qualification.

After playing in Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Germany in Hannover, the Brighton midfielder is turning his attention to the November 11 showdown in Belfast with Robert Prosinecki's men which could have a major bearing on who claims a play-off spot and second place in the table behind the World champions.

Azerbaijan have been the surprise package in Group C to date, taking seven points from their opening three matches. That tally means they are ahead of Northern Ireland, who have four points.

Norwood is well aware of the importance of his team's final qualifier of the year.

"If we can win the game in November we go second in the group and all the focus is now on that," said the former Manchester United starlet.

"The Azerbaijan game is huge. We knew that would be the case even before the Germany game and given the results on Tuesday night, we know we have to win that game.

"We want to make Windsor a fortress and try to make sure no one takes any points from us there."

Norwood believes Germany are the best team on the planet. Even so, that didn't stop him feeling down about losing to Joachim Low's men.

"I don't like losing and it is always disappointing even though we knew we'd be up against it facing the World champions," said the 25-year-old.

"It probably shows how far we've come as a group of players; we were expecting to get something from the game. We maybe could have done a bit better with the ball but we did give a good account of ourselves."

The ex-Reading ace was honest enough to admit that he could have made more of set-piece opportunities that came his way, though overall was happy with the commitment and desire shown by the side.

"We had a couple of good breakaways and a couple of good opportunities and I hold my hands up, I should have done better with the set-pieces," he said.

"I put a free-kick over the bar and our corners were opportunities too. I have to make more of those opportunities.

"That is something I will be working really hard on to make sure they are on the money by the time we play Azerbaijan next month.

"In general though, I thought we played really well.

"When we went two goals down early on I'm sure the fans were thinking it could get out of hand but we stuck at it.

"We dug in as we always will do and I believe we came away with a respectable score, even if no one ever wants to lose."

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