'Attitude over tactics' key for NI
The attitude and work ethic of Northern Ireland's players will be more important than talk of tactics, manager Michael O'Neill has said ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Northern Ireland might sit 23 places above Azerbaijan in the FIFA world rankings, but the hosts will be taking nothing for granted when the sides meet at Windsor Park on Wednesday night.
The fixture comes after O'Neill's side only managed a disappointing home draw against Luxembourg - but it also follows their impressive draw away to fourth in the world side Portugal.
"A lot is made about tactics and approaches and organisations and everything like that, but the key focus is on the group of players that you bring together," O'Neill said.
"The key ingredients in any performance are always put in by the players and that is the work rate, the desire, the energy to play."
Azerbaijan may be at a disadvantage, with their first choice goalkeeper suspended, but they held off group leaders Russia until the dying moments of their last game and only narrowly lost out 1-0.
It's time to put three points on the board - the players know that, I know that.
Rangers midfielder Dean Shiels has been in top form for his club side this season, but has struggled to make the starting line-up under O'Neill's command.
But he says, while he's keen to play, he knows the good of the team comes first.
"You want to do well for your club and then the bonus is getting picked for the international squad - so when that comes along, you don't want to come here and watch," Shiels said.
"We have a good squad and it is about the team and the whole squad and that's the most important thing, rather than myself as an individual.
"Even though I didn't play in Portugal, it was the manager's choice and it was probably the right one for the team because of the positive result."
Kick-off in NI's clash with Azerbaijan at Windsor Park is at 7.45pm on Wednesday.