Euro 2016

'Good night' needed to beat Poland, says Lafferty

GROUP C

Poland v Northern Ireland

Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm

NICE • The thousands of Northern Ireland fans, arriving in Nice today for the country's Euro 21016 Group C opener against Poland, have a lot to celebrate.

Northern Ireland will not only make their debut at the European Championship Finals, the match will also mark the first time they have appeared at a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

"I've never been so excited about a football match, it's the biggest international for everyone to date," said red-hot striker Kyle Lafferty, who came through a training injury scare last week to get his place in the starting XI.

Northern Ireland's top scorer with seven goals in qualifying - the same number as Real Madrid's Gareth Bale netted to help Wales reach the Euros - added: "I've never felt better. To score at a major tournament would be amazing."

Northern Ireland are the outsiders in Group C but begin the tournament on the longest unbeaten run of all 24 teams, a 12-game streak, a record for the side.

Key to avoiding defeat today will be whether centre-backs Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans can stifle Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, Poland's top scorer in qualifying with 13 goals.

"If they can have a good night, they can keep Lewandowski quiet," winger Niall McGinn said.

Poland are desperate to improve from their exits at the last two European Championships in 2008 and 2012 - when they finished bottom of the group.

This time round, many pundits and supporters fancy Poland to reach the last 16 at least.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline ''Good night' needed to beat Poland, says Lafferty'. Print Edition | Subscribe