O’Neill calls for strong home performance

Michael O'Neill says it's vital for Northern Ireland to take command of their World Cup play-off first leg tie with Switzerland at Windsor Park on Thursday.

O'Neill's side ended behind Germany in Group C to secure a place in the Second Round of qualification matches for Russia 2018.

And with an impressive record of seven wins from their past 10 competitive home games, with the only defeat against Germany last month, the 48-year-old is looking to maintain that form.

He told BBC Northern Ireland: "This is an opportunity for us to get a foothold in the tie and we have to take it.

"Yes, it is over two legs, but this is our opportunity to put ourselves in a strong position for the second leg."

He added: "This squad has evolved and has come through some bad times and learned from them.

"For some players, this may be their last opportunity and if they get to Russia it will be extremely well deserved.

Northern Ireland last played at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but made it all the way to the last 16 at Euro 2016, while Switzerland have played at the last three World Cups.

O'Neill concluded: "The one thing I would say to them is don't fear the situation, embrace it and make sure, whatever happens, when you look back there are no regrets.

"We all know the prize is massive and what it means to everyone in Northern Ireland, the players, staff, Irish Football Association, everyone in Northern Ireland."

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