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Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis: I'll keep a cool head

by 06/10/2017 20:15:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Six Northern Ireland players are a booking away from a World Cup play-off ban
  • Captain Steven Davis, Jonny Evans and Josh Magennis are among the players
  • Northern Ireland clinch play-off spot if Greece or Bosnia fail to win on Saturday
  • Michael O'Neill's men travel to Oslo to face Norway in final group stage clash 

By Chris Wheeler for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:34 EDT, 6 October 2017 | Updated: 20:15 EDT, 6 October 2017

Northern Ireland will need cool heads in Oslo on Sunday night when six of their players run the risk of a World Cup play-off ban.

Captain Steven Davis, Jonny Evans and his brother Corry, Stuart Dallas, Oliver Norwood and Josh Magennis are each on a yellow card going into the final Group C game against Norway.

Another booking for any of them would result in them missing the first leg of the play-off if Northern Ireland secure a place as one of the eight best runners-up in the European groups.

Josh Magennis said the players would only get booked for 'real challenges not petulance'
Josh Magennis said the players would only get booked for 'real challenges not petulance'

Josh Magennis said the players would only get booked for 'real challenges not petulance'

Their place could be confirmed before the match even kicks off if Greece and Bosnia fail to win on Saturday.

Manager Michael O’Neill must decide whether to rest players or risk seeing them pick up another, costly yellow card but Magennis is confident that he and the other five players are capable of keeping out of trouble in Norway.

‘We have to play with our heads cool and manage the game,’ said the Charlton striker. ‘So many of us have been on yellow cards for so long that it shows we’re not a petty team.

‘If we’re getting booked, it’s for real challenges not petulance or dissent or arguing with the referee. If one of us gets booked, we know it will be for genuine reasons.

Jonny Evans is another key Northern Ireland player one booking away from a suspension
Jonny Evans is another key Northern Ireland player one booking away from a suspension

Jonny Evans is another key Northern Ireland player one booking away from a suspension

‘It’s something that will be in the back of minds, but we’re wholehearted players and we’re not going to be pulling out of challenges if we think it’s there to be won.’

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern claims it’s unfair that two bookings should carry over into the play-off after a 10-game qualifying campaign. ‘Even if you weren’t booked against Norway, if you got booked in the first leg (of the play-off) you’d miss the second game, which is incredibly harsh,’ said McGovern.

‘In football, sometimes you can get booked for small things, especially at international level. We’ll just try not to get any.

Michael O'Neill faces a tough call on whether to play Evans and Co against Norway on Sunday
Michael O'Neill faces a tough call on whether to play Evans and Co against Norway on Sunday

Michael O'Neill faces a tough call on whether to play Evans and Co against Norway on Sunday

‘We have a small squad and we can’t afford to lose too many players, but I think everyone will keep a cool head.’

O’Neill will assess the situation after the other teams have played tonight before finalising his team selection.

Even if Northern Ireland have already qualified for the play-offs, the Norway clash could still be important in determining whether they are seeded and avoid the more dangerous teams such as Italy and Portugal.

‘We’re on a tightrope in terms of the bookings,’ said O’Neill. ‘We’ll just have to evaluate the situation come Saturday night when everyone else has played.

Steven Davis and Northern Ireland could seal a play-off spot if Greece or Bosnia fail to win
Steven Davis and Northern Ireland could seal a play-off spot if Greece or Bosnia fail to win

Steven Davis and Northern Ireland could seal a play-off spot if Greece or Bosnia fail to win

‘I don’t have four players from Bayern Munich on my bench, I’m sure you’ve noticed that. It’s not that easy to rotate my squad as it is for some other managers.

‘We can’t allow ourselves to field an inexperienced team and be beaten, and then suddenly lose out on goal difference.

‘There is a real importance to the result in Norway because obviously we want to go there and try and get three points, and we certainly want to make sure we’re not beaten.’

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