O'Neill talks up home advantage

09 November 2017 03:36:40 EST

Northern Ireland head coach Michael O'Neill has urged his players to make the most of the home first leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off against Switzerland.

The Irish are a more than formidable force in Belfast and O'Neill has challenged his players to secure a result on Thursday evening which will set them up nicely for the return leg on Sunday.

This is our opportunity to put ourselves in a strong position for the second leg.

Michael O'Neill

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."

Meanwhile, with Northern Ireland having not featured at the World Cup finals since 1986, O'Neill is well aware that this will be the final opportunity for several of his squad to feature on the biggest stage of the international game.

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.

"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."

Northern Ireland and Switzerland have never previously met in a competitive fixture, with the two sides having last faced each other in a friendly which ended goalless in 2004.

The hosts are available at 31/10 to win the game in Belfast on Thursday evening and are 7/4 to keep a clean sheet, with Northern Ireland priced at 12/5 to qualify for the World Cup finals at the expense of Switzerland.

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