LEE Hodson says Northern Ireland have the confidence and belief to make it to Russia 2018 after being called up to Michael O’Neil’s latest squad.

The full-back admitted he was hopeful of another call-up a few weeks back when he starred for the Ulster men against World Champions Germany and now he has been granted his wish.

After picking up two starts of late for Rangers the 25-year-old is in Belfast preparing to take on Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier this Friday.

Hodson said: “We have two games in November Azerbaijan at home in a qualifier and a friendly against Croatia and the qualifier is a very important game for us.

“If we win that then I think it takes us second going into the New Year and leading into March’s games.

“Michael O’Neil has done a great job and the lads are in a great place so it’s a great squad to be around when we go away.

“It is full of confidence and the belief between the lads is superb and the manager shows he believes in us as a team, where we can be and what we can do.

“That showed in the Euros by getting out of the group and into the knock out stages against Wales.

“It was a great experience to be a part of it even though I didn’t get any minutes but just to be out there and be a part of it was brilliant and a massive learning curve.

“It left us in a good state of mind and the squad is in a great place and we know what we can do and we believe we can kick on as a country.”

Hodson was picked up for his display last month against Germany when Northern Ireland were defeated 2-0 in Hannover.

The former MK Dons says the experience against the world’s best team is one that will live with him forever and he believes he will take lessons from the game into his Rangers performances.

He explained:

“I played in Germany which was a great experience for me to play against the World Champions, you don’t get to play against a team of that calibre every day but I enjoyed it and it was a great learning curve for me.

“It was good to play against the best team in the world and see where I need to improve as a player and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“The rotation and the freedom they have in the midfield and the front four have, as well as the full-back pushing on high, means they are just all over the place.

“It was hard to recognise who you were playing against because there was so much rotation between them. I enjoyed it very much so.

“We didn’t win but I doubt many will go there from our group throughout the qualifiers and take points out in Germany.

“The lads showed their character, we went 2-0 down early but we had the character to create chances and if we could have got one back you never know what might have happened.”

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