Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

Fixtures & Results

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Saudi Arabia SAU

Egypt EGY

Uruguay URY

Russia RUS

Spain ESP

Morocco MAR

Iran IRN

Portugal POR

Denmark DNK

France FRA

Australia AUS

Peru PER

Iceland ISL

Croatia CRO

Nigeria NGA

Argentina ARG

Mexico MEX

Sweden SWE

South Korea KOR

Germany GER

Switzerland SUI

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Watch: Injury helped me stay focused during Manchester City transfer speculation, says Jonny Evans

And he reveals the secret to Northern Ireland's defensive success

By Gareth Hanna

West Brom and Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans says his injury helped him to keep his mind off transfer uncertainty as the summer window drew to a close.

Rumours were rife that the 30 year-old was set to swap the Hawthorns for the Etihad, with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola keen on adding Evans to his squad.

However, the two clubs couldn't agree a fee, with City's offers falling short of WBA's reported £30M valuation of the international star.

While this was all going on, Evans sat out his club's first four Premier League games of the season with a hamstring problem. And that, he says, proved something of a blessing in disguise.

"No-one likes uncertainty," he said. "I think throughout the transfer window there was that bit of uncertainty that sometimes unsettles you but I felt pretty composed through. I knew what I had to do. I had an injury at the time that meant that I was able to take my focus of it all and concentrate on getting fit again."

Evans returned just in time to play a starring role in Northern Ireland's victories over San Marino and the Czech Republic. He even bagged only his second ever international goal to open the scoring in the latter game at Windsor Park.

"It was great," he reflected after the match. "My family were over at the corner flag and I didn't know what to do. By the time I realised, Josh (Magennis) had bear-hugged me. I felt emotional when I scored. It was such a big game for us and it was an important goal in the game so I was pleased to play a part in that.

"It probably wasn't our best performance but it was a very hard-working performance and very professional. We knew what to do to see the game out and I think we were very sure of ourselves  and composed in how we were going about our jobs. We never once lost our discipline. Lads were tracking runners and covered space for each other. That was a big part in us getting through the game, getting the clean sheet and two goals."

Evans has been a key cog in Northern Ireland's defensive displays that have kept seven clean sheets from their eight World Cup qualifying matches. So what's the secret?

"Being able to run that extra bit," he said. "When your legs are gone and you still cover your team-mate and you know he's going to do the same for you. There's a great understanding in the squad that that's a big part of our play and we have to do that if we're going to be succesful."

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