Hungary vs Northern Ireland: Michael O'Neill's job on the line if his team fail

 

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The Independent Online

Michael O'Neill is upbeat about Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 prospects but accepts he could be out of a job if he oversees a poor campaign. O'Neill's side start their Group F journey in Hungary this evening looking to banish a disappointing fifth-placed finish in World Cup qualifying and take advantage of an inviting draw.

They have avoided any heavyweight opponents and will be battling for a top-three finish in a section that also contains Greece, Finland, Romania and the Faroe Islands.

There is a sense of genuine optimism heading into the opener in Budapest but O'Neill is equally aware that failure will carry a high price. "With any new campaign there is excitement, hope and belief and this is no different," he said. "The players firmly believe this is a campaign we can do something in.

"I don't look at it as a type of make or break situation for myself, I look at it as an opportunity. But any international manager now basically works campaign to campaign. Even if you are contracted over and above that, if you have a poor one it may be the end of you anyway.

"At the end of the campaign that will be the time to review things and review what the future holds for me. But the main focus is on the job in hand, not a personal point of view. It's all about preparing the team well and giving ourselves the best chance of qualification."

Whether or not O'Neill stays on, Northern Ireland fans are sure to see significant changes in the near future. Indeed, with Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird, Gareth McAuley and Roy Carroll all long past 30 and the likes of Steven Davis and Chris Brunt not far behind, O'Neill admits the current squad on their last opportunity to reach the big stage.

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