Belfast Telegraph

Switzerland will have to withstand immense Windsor pressure to beat Northern Ireland: Wilson

 

By Stuart McKinley

Switzerland's record of nine wins and just a single defeat in their World Cup qualifying campaign is, undoubtedly, an impressive statistic.

After only losing out to Portugal in their final group game the Swiss, who are ranked 14th in the world, will come to Windsor Park on Thursday night confident that they can finish the job in a winner-takes-all play-off tie.

Former Northern Ireland midfielder Danny Wilson, however, sees their failure to make it a perfect 10 and book an automatic spot at next summer's finals as a burden for the visitors.

The famous atmosphere at Windsor Park is the first thing that Switzerland will have to contend with and, if Northern Ireland can take a lead into next Sunday's second leg at St Jakob Park, Wilson believes it will only crank up the pressure on Vladimir Petkovic's side and Michael O'Neill's men, who he has seen play with freedom over the last three years, will be ready to pounce.

"Switzerland are a very good team, they have proven that, but the pressure is all on them," said 57-year-old Wilson, who won 24 caps after qualifying for Northern Ireland through his mother's birthplace.

"I think they will feel that they have unfinished business in terms of this World Cup campaign. They had nine wins out of 10 in qualifying and were pipped by Portugal. I think they are under massive pressure now to get the job done and ensure that the work they did up to the defeat against Portugal last month wasn't in vain.

"They will come to Windsor Park, the place will be banging and they will have to deal with that. The fans will spur the Northern Ireland team on because we know it's a fantastic venue and the fans will be wanting to party.

"I know there is always a debate over what way round you want the games, but I think having the second leg in Switzerland increases the pressure.

"If Northern Ireland win the first leg it puts enormous pressure on Switzerland and pressure makes teams vulnerable.

"One thing's for sure though, Northern Ireland deserve to be there. To finish second in a group behind Germany is an excellent achievement."

Wilson will be kept fit ahead of the World Cup himself as he is taking part in Prostate Cancer UK’s Football to Amsterdam bike ride on 1-3 June. He will be joining Viv Anderson for the Yorkshire leg, which starts at Barnsley FC while former Arsenal striker Alan Smith, will cycle from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Lee Valley VeloPark in London.

For more information visit the website here or email cycling@prostatecanceruk.org. Riders can currently get a £25 discount off registration by entering the code AMSTERDAM25.

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