Northern Ireland have nothing to fear before Euro debut – Michael O’Neill

• ‘We need to embrace the situation … expectations will not be a burden on us’
• Manager picks out Robert Lewandowski as ‘talisman’ and main threat

Thirty years they have waited and now Robert Lewandowski stands before them, yet Michael O’Neill has urged Northern Ireland to embrace their European Championship bow and insisted there is nothing to fear against Poland on Sunday.

The Northern Ireland manager was in confident form before his country’s first outing at a major tournament since 12 June 1986, when Pat Jennings’ 41st birthday involved a 3-0 defeat by Brazil in Guadalajara. That was Northern Ireland’s third appearance at a World Cup finals. They have never featured at a European Championship but that will change on the Côte d’Azur when the rewards of a winning their qualification group and going 12 games unbeaten – the longest run in the country’s history and the best of all the sides competing in France – will hit home.

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