World Cup 2018: Jamie Ward says Northern Ireland can handle pressure

Jamie Ward scored for Northern Ireland against Norway
Jamie Ward's goal - his fourth for Northern Ireland - came after 87 seconds at Windsor Park

Northern Ireland's exploits at Euro 2016 have given them confidence in their bid to reach their first World Cup since 1986, says Jamie Ward.

The Nottingham Forest forward scored in the second minute of Sunday's 2-0 win over Norway which keeps them in contention for Russia 2018.

Michael O'Neill's men are second in Group C with 10 points from five games.

"We have been in this position with the Euros and have the experience of pressurised games," said Ward, 30.

"We are extremely confident going into every game and are not worrying about what the other teams in the group do.

"We have made a good start, we have 10 points and we just have to focus like we did in the Euros."

How they stand in Qualifying Group C
Northern Ireland's target is to finish in second place behind Germany

World champions Germany have a 100% record and top the group on 15 points, and O'Neill believes victory away to Azerbaijan in June would essentially make it a two-horse race with the Czech Republic for second place.

The Czechs, two points behind Northern Ireland, still need to travel to Belfast.

Northern Ireland's remaining 2018 World Cup qualifiers
10 JuneAzerbaijan (away)
1 SeptemberSan Marino (away)
4 SeptemberCzech Republic (home)
5 OctoberGermany (home)
8 OctoberNorway (away)

O'Neill said: "We're in a great position.

"Norway was a game that I was apprehensive about - just going up against such an experienced coach as Lars Lagerback.

"Norway came with nothing to lose, they had to win the game to keep themselves alive in the group and that made them a very dangerous opponent.

"We took care of the job and have given ourselves a substantial cushion over Norway [in fifth].

"We play Azerbaijan now and we can put the distance between us and them to six points and then it starts to look very much like ourselves, the Czech Republic and Germany.

"We have a difficult game in Baku, but we couldn't go into it in better shape."

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Michael O'Neill on huge games facing Northern Ireland

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France5410103713
2Sweden5311103710
3Bulgaria5302810-29
4Netherlands52128627
5Belarus5023210-82
6Luxembourg5014612-61

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Switzerland5500103715
2Portugal54011931612
3Hungary52128627
4Faroe Islands512228-65
5Latvia510429-73
6Andorra5014113-121

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany55002011915
2Northern Ireland5311102810
3Czech Rep52218448
4Azerbaijan521238-57
5Norway510459-43
6San Marino5005123-220

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Serbia5320126611
2R. of Ireland532073411
3Wales51408447
4Austria52128717
5Georgia502348-42
6Moldova5014213-111

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland5410126613
2Montenegro521210647
3Denmark52127527
4Romania51316426
5Armenia5203610-46
6Kazakhstan5023313-102

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England541080813
2Slovakia530210379
3Slovenia52214318
4Scotland521278-17
5Lithuania512259-45
6Malta5005213-110

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain54101921713
2Italy5410134913
3Israel53029909
4Albania520348-46
5Macedonia5104711-43
6Liechtenstein5005119-180

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium54102222013
2Greece5320103711
3Bos-Herze5311135810
4Cyprus511338-54
5Estonia5113515-104
6Gibraltar5005222-200

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Croatia54101111013
2Iceland531186210
3Ukraine52217438
4Turkey52217528
5Finland501438-51
6Kosovo5014214-121
View full World Cup Qualifying - European tables

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