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Evans eyes play-off success

Corry's Northern Ireland face Switzerland in Belfast this evening

9 November 2017

Rovers midfielder Corry Evans says it would be a dream come true if Northern Ireland can qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Michael O'Neill's side are just two play-off games away from making that dream a reality - with Switzerland standing in their way of a place on the plane for next summer's finals in Russia.

The first leg takes place in Belfast this evening, where Northern Ireland will be backed by a lively Windsor Park crowd.

Evans admits it is already a massive achievement to reach this stage - having come second in Group C behind reigning world champions Germany - but he is desperate to go one step further. 

"It's massive," said the 27-year-old, when asked how it felt to have qualified for the play-offs.

"It follows on from what we did last summer at the Euros. We've kept our consistency and managed to come second in our group, behind Germany.

"That was our main target at the start of the campaign and we've managed to achieve it.

"when you take Germany out of it, we focused on what we could do to top the 'mini league' against the other teams and we managed to do that.

"We were pretty solid throughout, we only conceded against Germany and then in the last game against Norway, we kept clean sheets in every other qualifier, so we've managed to achieve our aim.

"Growing up, you always dream of playing at a World Cup, but you never really think that it would be possible, playing for Northern Ireland.

"They've always had disappointments in my lifetime, growing up, so for the whole country and for myself, it would be massive."

Evans is expecting two tough games against a Switzerland side who won nine out of their 10 qualifiers and only missed out on top spot by goal difference.

And whilst Northern Ireland may not have the strength in depth of other nations they come up against, Evans insists their team spirit and togetherness is what drives them through.

"They're a good team," added Evans, who has 43 caps for his country.

"Obviously they won nine out of their 10 qualifying games and they only lost out to Portugal in the last game, so they've obviously got some very good players and it will be difficult test for us.

"We're probably underdogs in a lot of games we go into, but we've built up a lot of confidence since the last European qualifying campaign and it's sort of snowballed since then.

"The manager has us well-drilled on the opposition, we know our game, we know our strengths.

"We don't have the quality of other nations that we come up against, but we make up for it in team work and hard work.

"And it seems to be paying off for us so far.

"We've got a decent squad now - players with a lot of experience and we've got a lot of caps between us - and I think that's helped over the last few years.

"We're a pretty settled team, we know our jobs, we know what we're doing and we're going into games now pretty confident of getting a result."

Elsewhere this evening, Rovers captain Charlie Mulgrew is with the Scotland squad for a friendly against the Netherlands in Aberdeen.


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