Monday 20 November 2017

Josh Magennis calls on Northern Ireland to finish campaign on a high in Norway

Josh Magennis' late consolation gave Northern Ireland fans something to cheer about
Josh Magennis' late consolation gave Northern Ireland fans something to cheer about

Josh Magennis has urged Northern Ireland to finish their World Cup qualification campaign in style to ensure they make the play-offs as one of the seeded sides.

Thursday's 3-1 loss to Germany has not diverted the Northern Irish off their route to Russia, with second spot already guaranteed and one of the eight play-off places still possible even if they do not pick up another point.

They will be assured of a two-legged November tie prior to meeting Norway on Sunday if both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece fail to win 24 hours earlier.

However, there will still be plenty riding on the trip to Oslo regardless, as the play-off draw is seeded based on world rankings and Northern Ireland currently reside around the cut-off point between those who would be seeded and those would not.

That distinction could be the difference between facing Portugal and Italy or avoiding them and Magennis has called on Michael O'Neill's side to do all they can to enhance their ranking.

"The seeding is what we want," he said after scoring the consolation late on against the Germans.

"To be seeded wouldn't give us an easier game but we could go into the game on the front foot because we have been recognised as one of the top four teams out of eight in the play-offs.

"Obviously with the ranking we have we are in a good position but hopefully if we get the good result we desperately want in Oslo then we should have a great chance of claiming a seeding.

"It's so important because we could miss some of the big hitters and with us being so resilient away from home and strong at Windsor with the fantastic fans behind us we should have a big chance, if we make it to the play-offs.

"We are more than confident going into Oslo despite this defeat."

Goal-difference could be another factor in a race for the play-offs that remains murky heading into the final throes of the qualification campaign.

Northern Ireland's proud record of having only conceded to the Germans in these qualifiers means they boast a healthy goal difference of +5 - with results against the bottom-placed sides discounted in this particular mini-league.

Though the Germans scored inside two minutes in Belfast through Sebastian Rudy, and added a second courtesy of Sandro Wagner before the halfway point of the first period, Northern Ireland avoided a rout, much to Magennis' delight.

"They scored a wonder goal after just two minutes and that puts your game-plan out the window," he admitted.

"Michael on the bench is sort of saying, 'Do I go for it or do I not?' Because the calibre of player Germany have, they can rip you apart at any time.

"It was important after we went two down in the second half that we didn't capitulate because goal difference could play a huge part in making sure we reach the play-offs. I think we are now +5 in goal difference so we go into the Norway game with a healthy figure in that column.

"This country, especially during the last two campaigns, is used to winning and we are looking forward going to Norway and finishing this campaign with a victory."

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