Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland 2 Norway 0: Delighted Green and White Army have great expectations

By Ian Cahoon

Another victory at fortress Windsor means expectation levels continue to soar within the Green And White Army.

Last night's 2-0 victory over Norway in Belfast keeps the dream of World Cup qualification well and truly alive.

And it leaves thousands of Northern Ireland fans dreaming of following up last summer's memorable trip to France with a journey to Russia in 2018.

Warren Wilson says the squad has given themselves a fighting chance of making it to back-to-back major tournaments.

"There's still a long way to go, but we have put ourselves in a brilliant position now," he said.

"It feels quite like the last campaign with the momentum that has been building - you're almost turning up expecting to win these games now!

"It's yet another clean sheet and we've now played everyone in the group with Germany the only team to have scored against us.

"We've been built on a really solid foundation, and the guys we have at the back are massive players for us."

With the possibility of a first World Cup in 32 years these are memorable days for Northern Ireland fans, as Gary Burgess acknowledges. He said: "I think people are still sensible enough to know that we are in a real purple patch of form but we definitely expect more than ever, going into matches.

"There were some people near me frustrated that we didn't play as well in the second half after going 2-0 up, but you're not going to beat everyone 4-0!

"Part of being a good side at this level is being able to kill teams off and we did that in the second half."

Goalscoring forwards Jamie Ward and Conor Washington drew plenty of praise and Belfast man Ian Simms believes strength in depth is one of the main reasons behind the success of Michael O'Neill's men.

"One of the main differences now to a few years back is we have a bit of depth in the squad," he added.

"We were missing a few players against Norway and left out Kyle Lafferty and still got the job done pretty comfortably.

"Conor Washington has been doing well for QPR recently and proved it was the right call to play him.

"I thought Stuart Dallas did really well too, so players have repaid the faith Michael is showing in them."

But the fans have good reason to be happy - O'Neill's team have only suffered one defeat (in a friendly against Croatia) in their last 11 home internationals.

Belfast Telegraph


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