STEVEN DAVIS believes his Northern Ireland side have real hope of making it to Euro 2020 after coming through two tricky away ties in Estonia and Belarus earlier this month.
Davis, who, of course, captains his nation, is thrilled they claimed a 2-1 win in Tallinn and a 1-0 victory in Borisov to follow up from the pair of successes they had over the two countries back in March.
It leaves them three points clear at the top of qualifying group three with Germany three points behind and having played a game less, and the Netherlands a massive nine points worse-off, albeit they have played two games fewer than the Ulstermen.
With home and away ties against the Germans and Dutch to come, Davis and his teammates have done everything that could possibly have been asked of them ahead of the matches with the two giants of the group, with the top two sides progressing to the final tournament next summer.
Speaking exclusively to RangersTV at the club’s pre-season training camp in Portugal, Davis explained: “It was a good trip for us, and they were two very important games to give us hope in the group with the games to come.
“So we are delighted and they are always difficult games in June with the lads breaking up at different periods, and we managed to get the two results we wanted.
“We got off to a good start with the wins over those two nations at home, and that gave us a platform to build on. We knew we had to go out there and try to replicate those two performances and get two results again to give us a chance in the group, and it sets it up nicely with the big boys to come in September, October and November.
“It is going to be difficult, but we have given ourselves an opportunity to progress.”
Over the years, Northern Ireland have claimed a number of huge scalps at Windsor Park in front of the fervent home crowd.
Both opponents will naturally be huge hurdles to overcome, but Davis reckons his side go into the matches full of belief.
He added: “The confidence in the group is good, but we are not underestimating the task in hand as we know how difficult it will be.
“Holland have obviously improved a lot over the last 18 months and Germany we faced a few times over the last few years, so it is going to be a big, big test for us, but who is to say one of those nights at Windsor, it can’t be another special night and get one of those shock results we need.”
On the Rangers side of things, it’s an exceptionally quick turnaround for Davis, with exactly one month between the Belarus match and Gers’ trip in the Europa League to face either Prishtina or St Joseph’s.
Davis is well aware of the potential hazards of these early European ties, and added: “It is probably very similar to the games we faced for the international team – they are always difficult games in that period of the season so early-on, and a lot of these teams are mid-season as well.
“They are never easy games, but I think we have enough quality within the group that we can progress and hopefully get ourselves back in Europe again.”
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