Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland are the team Europe's elite will want to avoid, says Evans


By Paul Ferguson in Oslo

Decorated defender Jonny Evans is adamant European superpowers will want to avoid set piece specialists Northern Ireland in the World Cup play-offs next month.

Northern Ireland will find out who they must battle for the right to reach Russia next Tuesday in Zurich.

The matches take place between November 9-14.

Michael O'Neill's men, following the 1-0 defeat to Norway on Sunday night, will not be seeded for the play-offs and therefore could be pitched against the might of Italy or Portugal as well as either Croatia, Denmark or Switzerland. Former Manchester United centre back Evans, who played in all 10 of the 2018 World Cup qualifying matches, believes Europe's elite will fear Northern Ireland - especially going into the two-match shoot-out with their enviable defensive record.

The West Brom skipper says: "We're a real hardworking team, we defend really well as a unit, we all work hard for each other and that's not nice to play against.

"We've got a good defensive record throughout the campaign, we're disappointed conceding a goal, it would have been nice to have the eight clean sheets. I think a lot of teams will fear us.

"Teams will look at us and see we are good at set pieces - they can't handle us on set plays."

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