Northern Ireland can go all the way, insists Lafferty
Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30
Kyle Lafferty is braced for a "complete battle" against Wales in Paris tomorrow that he believes Northern Ireland will win en route to lifting the Euro 2016 crown.
In a bold declaration ahead of the biggest game in history between the two teams, Lafferty was convinced that victory at the Parc des Princes would be the springboard to even greater things.
Northern Ireland have not beaten Wales since a 1-0 victory in the Home Championship in May 1980, since when Wales have gone unbeaten in eight matches.
The last competitive meetings, in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup finals, were feisty, with a 2-2 draw at the Millennium Stadium in September 2004 ending with three players sent off.
Lafferty, who is expected to return to the starting line-up after being dropped for the games against Ukraine and Germany, is predicting another titanic tussle.
"It's going to be a complete battle," the Norwich City striker said. "Every single player in their position, whoever they come up against, will need to win their battle.
"You have to go the extra yard to the person you're up against. If you win your battle, the next person has to win their battle.
"Maybe you can complete a game with one or two players not winning their battles, but the outcome of this game is going to be massive.
"They (Wales) came close to beating England. They came out of that game with no points, but they have the same kind of heart and determination that we have.
"We've been written off and everything but (win and) we would be going into the quarter-finals, beyond anyone's expectations."
With the winners facing either Hungary or Belgium in the quarter-finals in Lille, and one of Switzerland, Poland, Croatia or Portugal lying in wait in the last four, Lafferty sees no reason why a minnow cannot win it.
"We'll approach the game in the same way as the other games and we believe we can win," he said.
"With the squad we have, I'm sitting here believing we can go the whole way. We may need a bit of luck along the way, but all teams need that. I do believe we could go the whole way.
"The way we've been fighting for each other, it's going to be interesting to see who wants it the most. I believe we will come out on top."
North manager Michael O'Neill could make changes to his team in a bid to guard against tired legs after a gruelling game in Tuesday's 1-0 defeat by Germany.
As well as Lafferty, midfielder Chris Baird and defender-cum-midfielder Paddy McNair are in contention to start.
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale - who became the first player since 2004 to score in all three group games at a Euro finals - insists he is looking no further than tomorrow's Parc des Princes showdown.
"Obviously you come to the tournament for one reason. Yes, we would love to win it, but all our focus now is on Northern Ireland.
"Until that whistle goes and we're through we can't think about anything else. We can't think about Belgium.
"We know our side of the draw. Maybe it is more favourable. But it is not favourable if you don't get through."
Wales were set to play Turkey until the Republic of Ireland's late winner against Italy changed the dynamics of the draw.
Martin Atkinson will referee the match, while Mark Clattenburg will take charge of the Switzerland v Poland tie. (© Daily Telegraph, London)