Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty gears up for ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ at Euro 2016
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty has labelled Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 draw the 'opportunity of a lifetime'.
Lafferty insists Michael O'Neill's squad will not be intimidated by facing World Champions Germany, Robert Lewandowski's Poland or the Ukraine in their group at next summer's finals in France.
The 28-year-old's seven qualifying goals fired his country to their first-ever appearance at the championships and Lafferty is determined to savour every moment.
'We wanted to play against the very best in Europe and we've got that with this draw,' he said. 'I'll relish playing against Germany – I can't wait now. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me.
'It will only push me on to improve my own game because I know I'll need to be at my ultimate to take on the German defenders. However, come June we'll need to stand up and I think we can do that. Our team spirit is excellent – never been higher – and we are all totally committed to making sure Northern Ireland do well.'
Lafferty has made no secret of his desire for regular club football with his short-term Norwich future set to be decided in next month's transfer window. The former Palermo forward has been touted with a return to Italy and Championship club Leeds, who failed in a loan enquiry prior to the emergency deadline in November.
Lafferty will be a key figure in Northern Ireland's bid to spring an upset and qualify for the knock-out stages.
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'It's not the group we would have wanted, it's incredibly tough and it could have been easier, but there's no point dwelling on it,' he told the Belfast Telegraph. 'We need to be excited. We have qualified for a major finals in style and I think other teams won't like playing us.
'If we were able to get a couple of decent results, maybe get a win and a draw that should be enough to send us through to the knock-out stages. That would be amazing for a country like Northern Ireland — it would send a message out to the world that we are a real force and shouldn't be underestimated.
'Michael will be meticulous in his planning for the finals. Look at what he did during qualifying and how the boys were prepared. I can guarantee Michael will have us fully-briefed.'