San Marino hope to beat Northern Ireland at their own game
Published 07/10/2016 | 19:31
San Marino are hopeful Northern Ireland's unfamiliar role as favourites for Saturday's World Cup qualifier can play into their hands, according to manager Pierangelo Manzaroli.
Having never won a competitive game in their history, the microstate have arrived in Belfast as a clear underdog against a country who earlier this year pieced together a record 12-match unbeaten sequence.
Not so long ago the gulf between the two nations would not have been considered so great but Michael O'Neill has elevated his current squad into higher echelons, ensuring that anything other than a comfortable home victory at the weekend will be viewed with shock.
However, those expectations have not always translated to results, as they showed with defeats to Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the previous World Cup qualification process.
"Northern Ireland play well when the big team try to attack and has a good counter-attack," Manzaroli noted.
"When Northern Ireland try to resolve the match with possession, maybe they have a lot of difficulty.
"I think Northern Ireland have a good generation of players. After Germany, they can try to compete with the Czech Republic and Norway for qualification.
"We know a lot of the game will be played in our half. We must do defensively well and try to counter-attack every time.
"We believe in our dream, in our chance. The last match against Azerbaijan was good, we lost only 1-0, so we try to improve our development."