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World Cup 2018: Teams will want to avoid NI in play-offs - O'Neill

World Cup 2018: Teams will want to avoid NI in play-offs - O'Neill

Northern Ireland celebrates after Chris Brunt scores the second goal against Czech Republic at Windsor ParkNorthern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill says they will be tough to beat in a potential World Cup play-off after the 2-0 win over Czech Republic.The qualifier victory in Belfast guaranteed a top-two spot in Group C and a likely place in the play-offs."Probably teams would say they wouldn't have minded playing Northern Ireland," said O'Neill.
"But if they look at us over the campaign they'll probably say no, we'd rather avoid Northern Ireland." West Brom's Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt netted in the first half to earn the three points in Belfast and boost hopes of securing one of the eight play-off places.The likes of Portugal or Italy could be their opponents although it is possible the in-form Northern Irish may even be seeded having won five successive games.
[img]http://www.bbc.co.uk/data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP//yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7[/img]

Northern Ireland have won five matches in a row and kept five clean sheetsO'Neill's team have taken 19 points from a possible 24 and kept seven clean sheets, more than any other European nation."The fear is getting to the play-offs and not getting through it, the opposition will be what it will will be," he said."Hopefully the draw - if and when we're in that position - will be somewhat kind to us. It's very difficult, who would you want in that scenario?"(The win) has given us 19 points which when we go into the pot of second-placed teams, we've got 13 at the moment (as results against the bottom team are discounted). "I look back at the qualification for Brazil (in 2014) and 13 was enough, Denmark missed out with 10."We'll just have to wait and see, hopefully between now and game 10 there's a load of other draws in every other group and 13 is more than enough!"
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'It only took me 60 caps to score a decent goal' - Chris Brunt
It was Evans' first international goal in over eight years that put the hosts in front at Windsor Park as he flicked home a header from a semi-cleared corner in the 28th minute.That was the highlight of an impressive display from the 29-year-old defender which showed why Manchester City and Arsenal were keen to sign him before last week's deadline arrived and Evans remained West Brom's captain."Jonny's been brilliant this week," said O'Neill "He's had a lot on his plate but he deals with it so well and his performances in both of the games were fantastic."
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