O'Neill eyeing route to Russia after Northern Ireland's latest qualifying win
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill found no fault with a team he believes are primed for the road to Russia following a 2-0 victory over Norway.
Jamie Ward's strike after 87 seconds was added to by another first-half goal from Conor Washington as Northern Ireland retained Group C's second spot and moved on to 10 points at the World Cup qualification's halfway stage.
Prior to the game, O'Neill said he saw the double-figure points landmark as key to fostering belief that they could claim a play-off berth to reach the finals in 2018, and this win maintained their two-point cushion over the Czech Republic, while extending advantages over Azerbaijan and Norway to three and seven points respectively.
"We're in a great position," O'Neill said.
"With each game you get that level of belief and this was a game that I was apprehensive about - just going against such an experienced coach as Lars Lagerback.
"Norway came with nothing to lose, they had to win the game to keep themselves alive in the group and that made them a very dangerous opponent.
"We took care of the job. We've given ourselves a substantial cushion over Norway. We play Azerbaijan now and we can put the distance between us and them to six points and then it starts to look very much like ourselves, the Czech Republic and Germany.
"Once you get to 10 points you start to look at the fixtures that are ahead and start to think of what you may need and we're in that position now.
"We have a difficult game in Baku, but we couldn't go into it in better shape."
The scoreline may not have been as empathic as their previous two Windsor wins - with San Marino and Azerbaijan both beaten by four goals - yet O'Neill was just as pleased.
"I'm delighted with the performance, I couldn't have asked for any more," he said.
"We didn't have a poor performer, we didn't even have anyone that was a seven out of 10, they were all eights, nines, 10s. We played some great football as well, the performance was fantastic.
"We looked assured in how we played, we looked like we would see the game out. We've now scored 10 goals here, we've kept four clean sheets out of five and only Germany have scored against us. They are all statistics we should be proud of and all those things build confidence."
The three-man defence that O'Neill utilised at Euro 2016 was revisited and marshalled throughout by 37-year-old Gareth McAuley, even if his evening had looked like ending midway through the first half due to a back problem.
His troubles seemed to ease as soon as QPR's Washington fired in his third international goal, all of which have come in starts at Windsor Park, after fellow Championship forward Ward had stunned Lagerback's men inside the opening two minutes.
"Washington has had a tricky enough time in the early part of the season where he's not played a lot and Jamie had to go on loan to Burton and he's back at Nottingham Forest, but for us they're both very good players," O'Neill noted.
Norway were back in Belfast for the first time since O'Neill's first game in 2012 and this time it was their incoming manager who started his reign with a defeat, and Lagerback admits they are virtually out of the running to claim a play-off berth already.
"I said we need to win five out of six matches and now Northern Ireland have a very good record," the Swede said.
"Realistically talking the chances (finishing second) are very, very little.
"We weren't good enough, it's as simple as that. First half we were too passive and they were a little bit silly goals - the first one after less than two minutes then the second one was a giveaway in the wrong area."