Belfast Telegraph

Norway is our biggest game at home since we qualified for Euro '16 finals: Steven Davis

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with Norway on Sunday is the biggest game at Windsor Park since the team defeated Greece to reach the Euro 2016 finals, according to influential skipper Steven Davis.

The Southampton midfielder (right) was the hero that night in October 2015, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory, and while several matches have been played at the stadium in the aftermath, including World Cup wins over San Marino and Azerbaijan, the Cullybackey man states the fixture with Norway is the most vital.

It pits second place (Northern Ireland on seven points) versus fifth place (Norway on three points). Azerbaijan (seven points) and the Czech Republic (five) are in between and San Marino (zero) prop up a table led by World champions Germany (12).

“I believe this is the most important game we’ve played at Windsor Park since we qualified for the Euros. This is a massive match for us,” said Davis, who believes it could have a huge bearing on who finishes second behind Germany to clinch a play-off spot.

“This game carries a lot of significance for us and with it being at home it gives us a chance to pick up more points.”

Northern Ireland captain Davis continued: "In all honesty, we expect Germany to go on and win the group which leaves the rest of us fighting it out for that second place.

"So we know if you are going to be successful in these groups you must pick up as many points at home as possible.

"There is a gap of four points between us and Norway and if we win, it would put more daylight between them and us which would be a very big boost for our team.

"I know this is only game five and there will still be five games to go after the Norway match but it is good that the games at this stage are important because it means we are in the mix. Hopefully as the campaign continues the matches will become even more important."

Davis fully expects that with a new manager in experienced Lars Lagerback (right) at the helm, Norway will prove a tough nut to crack.

"We know how difficult this game will be because Norway will feel they have underperformed so far. With a new manager coming in that will make a difference," said Davis. "He has been a very successful manager in his previous jobs and when any manager comes in there is normally a reaction so we must be wary.

"We have had convincing 4-0 victories at Windsor Park against San Marino and Azerbaijan so far in this campaign, but if anyone thinks it will be an easy game for us against Norway they would be wrong. Certainly no one in our squad will be thinking like that or taking anything for granted.

"It feels like we have had a long break since the last international in November and we have to get back into the swing of things quickly, get in the right frame of mind and take on board the roles and responsibilities that everyone has within the squad. If we do that we will have a great chance of getting the result we want."

More: I am still having a ball with Northern Ireland, says skipper Davis

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