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Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has three wishes for clash with Belarus in Belfast

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's inspirational skipper Steven Davis was clear in his mind.

Asked what he was looking for from tonight's friendly against Belarus in Belfast - the last home match for Michael O'Neill's side before the Euro 2016 finals - the captain's answer summed up the mood of the squad.

"Ultimately it is the performance, hopefully coming through injury free and because of the unbeaten run we are on we want to keep that going and win the game, so if we get all three of those we will be very happy."

Three wishes. For the supporters determined to wave off their heroes in style a big performance and victory taking the record unbeaten run to 11 fixtures would of course be welcome, but the Southampton midfielder's point about players staying injury free is the most important for manager Michael O'Neill.

He doesn't want to lose anyone now to a heartbreaking injury with the build-up to that opening group game in France against Poland in Nice just over a fortnight away.

Davis says he can feel the buzz in Belfast about the tournament.

There is also a huge sense of anticipation amongst the players, especially following the team's media day earlier this week at Carton House in Co Kildare when scores of journalists turned up to conduct interviews.

The former Rangers star said: "There is a lot of talk about Euro 2016 between the players about what we can expect.

"Probably the first day that it hit home was the media day that we held at Carton House.

"That was a step up from what the boys have experienced with Northern Ireland before so that will only increase the closer it gets to the tournament. We are aware that there is going to be a lot of media scrutiny on us in France."

Tonight Davis will renew his successful midfield partnership with Oliver Norwood with Chris Baird expected to be deployed in the holding midfield role.

Davis has long since been Northern Ireland's most accomplished footballer and wins his 82nd cap against Belarus at Windsor Park.

He has scored eight international goals, three of which have come in recent outings at Windsor Park, including a brace last October in the 3-1 victory over Greece that saw Northern Ireland clinch qualification.

Belfast Telegraph


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