2018 World Cup: NI defender McAuley urges caution against San Marino

Gareth McAuley
Gareth McAuley's eight international goals have all come from headers in competitive matches

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley has urged his team-mates to avoid any embarrassing slip-ups against San Marino at Windsor Park next month.

Michael O'Neill's side began their World Cup qualifying Group C campaign with a draw against the Czech Republic.

"We have struggled against teams like that in the past," warned McAuley.

"I'm not one for looking back but in the last campaign we found a way of beating the teams we are expected to beat," added the West Brom centre-half.

Northern Ireland began their bid to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia by picking up a point from a goal-less stalemate in Prague on Sunday but now face an October double-header against two sides at polar opposite ends of the international football spectrum.

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NI manager Michael O'Neill satisfied with display against Czech Republic

San Marino, a nation who have never won a competitive fixture in their 26-year existence, are the visitors to Windsor Park before the Northern Irish travel to the reigning world champions, who are unbeaten in 24 World Cup qualifying contests.

Victories over smaller countries helped pave the way for Northern Ireland's qualification for Euro 2016 as O'Neill's men claimed 10 points from a possible 12 against the Faroe Islands and Finland, having dropped points against the likes of Luxembourg, Azerbaijan and Estonia in campaigns before that.

"It is important to pick up points at home, starting next month against San Marino," said veteran West Brom defender McAuley.

"Hopefully we can be positive and be on the front foot and it will be nice to get back to Windsor and have the home crowd and the stadium when it's fully finished.

"And with that crowd behind us, hopefully we can turn that into another three points which would make it a really positive start."

From being overwhelming favourites to defeat San Marino, O'Neill's side will be huge underdogs against Germany three days later.

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NI captain Steven Davis says performance in Prague gives a platform to build on

There is an acceptance from the other nations in the group that the world champions' dominance has probably left second place as the best prize available, something which was reaffirmed to McAuley when he played against them in a 1-0 loss at the Euros.

"We want to be in a good position before we go to Germany," he added.

"We've already seen first-hand at the Euros just how good they are so it's probably a group where it is a race for second place and a play-off place.

"Our aim is to win the next one and go to Germany and give the best performance we can.

"We are a little bit disappointed with how we played in Prague but it gives us confidence that we can improve.

"It's different coming away from home than it is at Windsor Park but on our day we can take on anyone and hopefully that's the case when we go to Germany. It was just important that we didn't lose the first game."

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Sunday 4th September 2016

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belarus00000000
2Bulgaria00000000
3France00000000
4Luxembourg00000000
5Netherlands00000000
6Sweden00000000

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Andorra00000000
2Faroe Islands00000000
3Hungary00000000
4Latvia00000000
5Portugal00000000
6Switzerland00000000

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany11003033
2Azerbaijan11001013
3Czech Rep10100001
4Northern Ireland10100001
5San Marino100101-10
6Norway100103-30

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Austria00000000
2Georgia00000000
3Moldova00000000
4R. of Ireland00000000
5Serbia00000000
6Wales00000000

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Denmark11001013
2Kazakhstan10102201
3Poland10102201
4Montenegro10101101
5Romania10101101
6Armenia100101-10

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Scotland11005143
2England11001013
3Lithuania10102201
4Slovenia10102201
5Slovakia100101-10
6Malta100115-40

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Albania00000000
2Israel00000000
3Italy00000000
4Liechtenstein00000000
5Macedonia00000000
6Spain00000000

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium00000000
2Bos-Herze00000000
3Cyprus00000000
4Estonia00000000
5Gibraltar00000000
6Greece00000000

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Croatia00000000
2Finland00000000
3Iceland00000000
4Kosovo00000000
5Turkey00000000
6Ukraine00000000
View full World Cup Qualifying - European tables

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