Ian Baraclough insists his Northern Ireland players are relishing the prospect of their do-or-die Euro 2020 play-off final against Slovakia tonight.
After scraping past Bosnia and Herzegovina on penalties last month, victory at Windsor Park will secure the Green and White Army a spot at next summer’s delayed finals — with the winners of this tie set to join Spain, Sweden and Poland in Group E.
And 49-year-old Baraclough (pictured above) could not be happier with the focus his troops have displayed ahead of the showdown.
He said: “They want to get down to business.
“That’s how it was last month and how I feel it has been this time. We’ll build that up as we go on towards kick-off.
“It’s a game we’re capable of winning if we set our minds right and if we do the right things.
“There’s been an extra level of concentration in the meetings and in the training sessions. All eyes are on the Slovakia game now.”
Slovakia also needed a shootout to dump out the Republic of Ireland in the previous round.
But that success was not enough for boss Pavel Hapal to keep his job. He was sacked just five days after the win due to a string of sub-par performances and was replaced by caretaker boss Stefan Tarkovic.
Tarkovic, 47, knows a victory in Belfast could secure him the post on a permanent basis and he has key man Milan Skriniar available after the Inter Milan defender missed the previous international window with coronavirus.
Vladimir Weiss could also feature having been recalled to the Slovakia squad for the first time since 2018.
Cardiff midfielder Gavin Whyte is in line to start for Northern Ireland as Blackburn’s Corry Evans is out with a hamstring injury.
And key defender Jonny Evans is expected to shake off a knock to feature as the hosts look for a first victory against Slovakia in four attempts.
Did you know?
Victory for Northern Ireland will see them qualify for the European Championship finals for the second time and a second consecutive tournament having reached the round of 16 at Euro 2016.
Since they last had more shots than their opponents in a match in June 2019 against Belarus, Northern Ireland have attempted just 72 shots in 11 games while facing 186 themselves.
Slovakia lost their last two outings against Scotland and Israel in the Nations League last month. They have not lost three in a row since October 2016.