MX23RW : Friday, August 23 01:11:44| >> :600:87727757:87727757:
Nov 11, 2016 at 7.45pm UK at ​Windsor Park
Northern Ireland
4-0
Azerbaijan
Lafferty (27'), McAuley (40'), McLaughlin (66'), Davis (83')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Michael O'Neill wary of Azerbaijan threat

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill insists that Azerbaijan are genuine contenders to finish second in Group C of World Cup qualifying.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has warned that Azerbaijan are genuine contenders to qualify from Group C and reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Azerbaijan have never reached a major international tournament before, but they currently sit second behind only world champions Germany having amassed seven points from their three games so far.

Northern Ireland would match that tally and leapfrog Azerbaijan in the standings with victory over Robert Prosinecki's side at Windsor Park on Friday, and O'Neill acknowledged that a win would make for a good start to their campaign.

"To have seven points after four games - and to have gone away to the Czech Republic and Germany - is a good return and will set us up nicely for the second half of the campaign. I don't think it's a game which will be make or break, there are still six games after that. Ourselves, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic and Norway, there's very little between us, the games have shown that," he told reporters.

"Our aim is to put ourselves in a position of strength and three points will do that. We wouldn't want to be six points behind Azerbaijan. We have to stop their momentum from the opening three games and it will be nice for us to be sitting second. I see similarities certainly in terms of where we came from and how our confidence grew and we've talked about that with the players - [Azerbaijan] are obviously a team that is capable of doing that as well.

"Our job tomorrow night is to create a road block and make it as difficult as possible and make sure we take the three points. The biggest thing in any campaign is how you react when the result goes against you, and we saw that in our qualification campaign - we had to play Finland and win having lost in Romania and we hope after Friday night Azerbaijan will face a similar problem in March."

Azerbaijan are one of only four teams yet to concede a goal in qualifying.

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