Chris Brunt and Aaron Hughes confident of first ever European Championship qualification for Northern Ireland
Last Updated: 05/09/14 11:24pm
Northern Ireland’s Chris Brunt believes this is the best chance his country have had for a long time to qualify for the European Championships.
Michael O'Neill's side have been drawn in Group F with Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands – with 24 teams to qualify instead of 16 this time.
Northern Ireland have never qualified for the Euros and have not made it to a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.
Ahead of their opening qualifier in Hungary on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 3HD, West Brom’s Brunt said: "It's going to be tough, but with the extra teams going through this time it's got to be the best chance we've had for a long time.
"We’ve got to be confident. It's important we get off to a good start, but the other teams will be thinking of that as well, especially Greece, given that they were in the World Cup.
"You don't get to the World Cup knockout stages without being a good side, so everyone expects them to qualify but there’s second and a play-off place up for grabs.
"This campaign is going to be big for everyone. We want to score more goals because if you take away David Healy then you could probably say it's a problem for most of us in the camp.
"But if getting a result means more defending I'll take it. It really doesn't matter who scores – even if our goalkeeper Roy Carroll smacks one in!"
Brighton defender Aaron Hughes, who came out of international retirement in 2012, also feels confident of Northern Ireland’s chances this time.
"This one is very hard to predict – but we can do it," he said.
"Greece are consistent and know what it takes to get through but everyone else on any given night can beat each other – that throws the group wide open."
Hungary v Northern Ireland is live on Sky Sports 3HD on Sunday, coverage begins at 4:45pm.