EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS: Michael O’Neill inspired by World Cup legends of 1982 and ‘86

Michael O'Neill (right) with assistant and World Cup legend Jimmy Nicholl
Michael O'Neill (right) with assistant and World Cup legend Jimmy Nicholl

Michael O’Neill would love to emulate Northern Ireland’s World Cup heroes of the Eighties by qualifying for Euro 2016.

The international manager watched as a mysty-eyed kid when Billy Bingham’s side dethroned hosts Spain at the 1982 World Cup.

“I think I was about 12 at the time,” the now 46-year-old O’Neill said.

“I watched the World Cup in ‘82 on the television. It was an amazing experience as a kid.

“It was great to see that team and how it developed and grew throughout the tournament. It was a team that was just delighted to be part of the tournament, then it ended up having a huge impact as well.

“Then there was 1986, off the back of that success. I was fortunate enough to come into that squad in 1988. There were still a lot of players that had been part of that experience and I was privileged to play with a lot of those players as well, that had played in ‘82 and ‘86.

“I know what it was like in those days and how the whole World Cup thing gripped the whole country. It would be lovely to experience that again and be part of it.”

Northern Ireland have failed to reach a major finals since Mexico ‘86, but now stand on the cusp of rewriting the history books.

Victory against Greece on Thursday will guarantee their spot at next summer’s Euros, and O’Neill is confident his players can finish the job.

“Whilst we need two points our approach has to be to win the game rather than draw,” he added.

“The Hungarians have to win both their games as well so there’s an onus on them, too.”