Northern Ireland legend Pat Jennings believes players can dig deep and hold onto a chance to advance to the 2022 World Cup final.
A Baraclough side face a tough fight in Group C, especially after a scoreless home draw against Bulgaria which put the pressure ahead of the clash in Lithuania tomorrow night.
With European champion Italy and a skillful Swiss team strutting around, Northern Ireland – which hosts the Swiss next Wednesday – must produce something magical if they are to join the party in Qatar in November. next year.
But legend Jennings, whose distinguished career spanned 23 years, hopes the modern team can draw inspiration from the fighting qualities and wit that catapulted Billy Bingham’s men to success in the 1980s.
The Newry man, who won 119 caps, has golden memories of not only World Cup final appearances in Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986, but also the incredible qualifying campaigns when they challenged the probabilities and silences the big guns.
His performance against England in a scoreless draw at Wembley in 1985 to win Northern Ireland the point they needed to advance to the 1986 final is one of the special moments in history sportswoman from her country.
Jennings, who made 33 World Cup qualifiers and made seven final appearances, is now hoping the current crop can fight.
“The qualifying campaign which saw us beat Romania 1-0 and score a point against England at Wembley to advance to the finals in Mexico was brilliant,” he recalls. âFinishing in Mexico on my 41st World Cup birthday was special. Even at that age I managed six clean sheets, that’s how dumb the game is.
âWe wish Ian (Baraclough) all the best and hope the team can continue and qualify.
âThere are never easy games for us. We can’t take any opponent for granted, it’s about showing respect and doing your best at night. You give yourself 100%, don’t leave anything in the locker room and you can’t ask for anything after that.
Due to Qatar’s intense summer heat, the next World Cup will be held from late November to mid-December, making it the first tournament not to take place in May, June or July and it must be played in a time reduced by approximately 28 days.
âIt’s a crazy situation, but you just have to run with it,â Jennings added. âWe saw the challenges of the heat in Tokyo at the Olympics and the sport throws up these unusual challenges.
âI remember we played against the Mexican national team with Tottenham in 1966. It was a kick off at 12 noon two weeks before they played the World Cup in England and you just have to do in the face of whatever conditions you come up against. “
Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard, meanwhile, remains optimistic about his side’s World Cup hopes.
âAs a group we know this is a vitally important game and we are going there to pick up the three points,â said Ballard.
âWe will have a game plan and we will be ready to execute it. Of course, we hope to achieve victory. There aren’t many easy matches at international level and the pitch will be extremely difficult there. If we bring our A game and put all our effort into the game, we can get a result. We are all focused and ready.
âThe objective is to get as many victories as possible and to fight for qualification. We want to be in the mix, we want to play for something in the upcoming games, we want that extra pressure. “