Belfast Telegraph

Watch: FIFA want bigger countries than Northern Ireland at the World Cup but we can do it anyway, says ex-international


By Graham Luney

Former Northern Ireland favourite Sammy Clingan believes Michael O'Neill's side can upset Fifa by realising their World Cup finals dream.

Glenavon midfielder Clingan, who won 39 caps, says football's world governing body don't want the smaller nations competing in the World Cup finals in Russia next summer, but Northern Ireland are well equipped to triumph against the odds.

The play-off draw will be made on Tuesday with O'Neill's side pitted against either Italy, Switzerland, Croatia or Denmark.

And Northern Ireland could pay a heavy price on the disciplinary front with Jonny Evans, Corry Evans, Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Oliver Norwood, Josh Magennis, Chris Brunt and Jamie Ward all a booking away from a suspension.

"I think Fifa and Uefa do favour the bigger nations, they want the bigger countries at the tournaments," he said. "You're seeded in the qualifying groups and then for the play-offs when I believe every side has earned their place in it and it should be an open draw."

Clingan was speaking during a Facebook Live video for Belfast Telegraph Sport with Paul Ferguson and Gareth Hanna. Watch the whole episode right here and keep reading below:

Former Northern Ireland National Team midfielder Sammy Clingan discusses the World Cup qualifying campaign with our NI reporters Paul Ferguson and Gareth Hanna. Send us your questions

Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"You are also handed a one-match suspension after two yellow cards and they still roll on for the play-offs," Clingan continued.

"Croatia were very good when they beat us 3-0 in a friendly at Windsor last year and I don't want them. Switzerland have good attacking players while I'd want to avoid Italy too.

"It's going to be difficult but there's a confidence in the squad that they can progress over the two legs. It would be good if we got the second leg at Windsor and with something to play for."

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