Michael O’Neill keen to continue building momentum as he prepares for France 2016

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Michael O’Neill hopes Northern Ireland can continue building momentum as they close in on next summer’s Euro finals.

O’Neill is looking to secure at least five friendlies before the 2016 tournament kicks-off in France.

He will begin preparations on Friday night with the visit of Latvia to Windsor Park.

The friendly will offer O’Neill the chance to survey his options – in personnel and tactics – as Northern Ireland prepare for their first major finals in 30 years.

And while there will be a celebratory atmosphere on Friday at Windsor following the qualifying success, O’Neill is aware of the importance of this week’s get-together with his players.

“The priority for this game was that I wanted to play at home because it was a fantastic night here against Greece, but we had to leave the next morning and then subsequently when the players returned from Helsinki they all went their separate ways to all different parts of the UK,” O’Neill said.

“I wanted the players to be at home to enjoy and get a feel for the impact they have made in Northern Ireland by qualifying.

“The opposition was not the key thing and I only wanted one game this week because over the campaign the players had given so much.

“But in the remaining friendlies I want to see that edge. That is the important thing. Our ranking is now 29 in the world and we want to try and maintain that and try and improve on that.

“To improve on it we will probably have to beat better teams. Realistically before the summer we will have four games after this one and it will all be about the level of performance, understanding what we want in terms of people knowing their roles in the team and equally we will have to be flexible and potentially look at different systems.”