sport news Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neil calls for intensity

Northern Ireland's players must approach their World Cup qualifier against minnows San Marino as if they are facing world champions Germany, boss Michael O'Neill has said.

The micro-state, ranked 204th in the world, have never won a competitive game since joining FIFA 29 years ago and were beaten 4-0 by the Northern Irish in Belfast last October.

In the past, fixtures against smaller nations such as Luxembourg and Azerbaijan were O'Neill's team's Achilles heel, but having reached Euro 2016 and put themselves in contention to make next summer's World Cup too, their boss is confident they can avoid a banana skin on Friday night.

Michael O'Neil warned his Northern Ireland side against complacency in bid to reach Russia 

Michael O'Neil warned his Northern Ireland side against complacency in bid to reach Russia 

'We've looked at how teams have not played as smartly as they could have and maybe underestimated San Marino, O'Neill said.

'That's something we've hammered home to the players.

'The one thing you always want to avoid is complacency in this type of game and the way to do that is to point out the mistakes you've made, your potential weaknesses and to make sure on the night we play as if we're playing Germany or the Czech Republic.

O'Neil has been preparing his side to face minnows San Marino in their World Cup qualifier

O'Neil has been preparing his side to face minnows San Marino in their World Cup qualifier

'Having seen the players this week, that's what we anticipate for the type of performance we'll get.

'We don't envisage it will be easy for us. Whether you win 1-0 or 6-0, it's irrelevant; the key is making sure we win the game.'

This time two years ago O'Neill's side were in pole position to secure qualification to Euro 2016, their first major tournament in three decades, and in 2017 they are also sitting pretty in their World

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