Club News

McAuley assesses Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 chances

Defender says spirits are high in the camp

GARETH McAuley hopes his Northern Ireland side can spring a surprise on plenty of people at this summer’s Euro 2016 tournament.

Pundits have given Northern Ireland the tag of underdogs in a challenging Group C, which features world champions Germany as well as Ukraine and Poland.

Michael O’Neill will have the opportunity to take one last look at the players when they face Belarus on Friday night in Belfast, before he names his final 23-man squad for the competition on Saturday.

Northern Ireland booked their place in France after finishing top of Group F in qualifying, and McAuley believes their togetherness and team spirit has the potential to take them into the last-16.

“It’s going to be a great occasion for everyone and hopefully we can make people proud,” said the Albion defender.

“This tournament is 30 years in the making for us, generations haven’t had the chance to go to any tournament and do it.

“Everyone is mad keen to get there.

“Our team spirit is a big thing. We aren’t world beaters, we haven’t got household names or world-class players, but together as a team we are strong.

“We work really hard and everyone who steps into the team knows their job.

“We’re in a good place at the minute and spirits are higher than high.

“It’s ten games unbeaten for us and we want to keep that going into the tournament.

“It will be difficult, we have tough games against teams who have world-class players but as long as we are strong as a team, I’m sure we could surprise a few people.

“Only one team will drop out of the group so I would like to think that we have a chance of sneaking into the last-16.”