Teams will want to avoid Northern Ireland says O’Neill

Manager Michael O’Neill said teams will be looking to avoid his country in the World Cup play-offs following the 2-0 win over Czech Republic which guaranteed a second place finish in Group C. 

A Jonny Evans header and a superb free kick from Chris Brunt at Windsor Park secured another three points for the Green and White Army.

O’Neill admitted that not long ago teams would’ve been happy to face Northern Ireland but following their impressive qualifying campaign, he believes the tables have turned.

“Probably teams would say they wouldn’t have minded playing Northern Ireland,” O’Neill told BBC Sport.

“But if they look at us over the campaign they’ll probably say no, we’d rather avoid Northern Ireland.”

Victory over the Czechs was the side’s fifth in a row and a fifth consecutive clean sheet.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland have kept seven clean sheets over eight qualifiers and goalkeeper Michael McGovern has not conceded in over 10 hours of football.

Windsor Park has also proved one of the most difficult grounds to visit as NI have not conceded a home goal since October 2015.

The nation suffered just one defeat so far during in the qualifying campaign at the hands of World Champions Germany, who lead Group C by five points and need just one point from their remaining two games to claim top spot.

With a second place finish confirmed, O’Neill can be proud of his team’s efforts but he admits the job is not done yet.

“The fear is getting to the play-offs and not getting through it. The opposition will be what it will be,” he said.

“Hopefully the draw – if and when we’re in that position – will be somewhat kind to us. It’s very difficult – who would you want in that scenario?

“I look back at the qualification for Brazil (in 2014) and 13 (points) was enough. Denmark missed out with 10.

“We’ll just have to wait and see, hopefully between now and game 10 there’s a load of other draws in every other group and 13 is more than enough.”

Are Northern Ireland now a team to avoid? Let us know in the comments below!